The Evolution Debate, 1813-1870

By Charles Darwin; Alfred Russel Wallace et al. | Go to book overview

VII.

A THEORY OF BIRDS' NESTS;SHOWING THE RELATION OF CERTAIN DIFFERENCES OF COLOUR IN FEMALE BIRDS, TO THEIR MODE OFNIDIFICATION.

THE habit of forming a more or less elaborate structure for the reception of their eggs and young, must undoubtedly be looked upon as one of the most remarkable and interesting characteristics of the class of birds. In other classes of vertebrate animals, such structures are few and exceptional, and never attain to the same degree of completeness and beauty. Birds' nests have, accordingly, attracted much attention, and have furnished one of the stock arguments to prove the existence of a blind but unerring instinct in the lower animals. The very general belief that every bird is enabled to build Its nest, not by the ordinary faculties of observation, memory, and imitation, but by means of some innate and mysterious impulse, has had the bad effect of withdrawing attention from the very evident relation that exists between the structure, habits, and intelligence of birds, and the kind of nests they construct.

In the preceding essay I have detailed several of these relations, and they teach us, that a consideration of the structure, the food, and other specialities of a

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