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Part II.
The Descent of Man.

large red caruncle is developed during this period on the head of the male. So it is with a thin horny crest on the beak of one of the pelicans, P. erythrorhynchus; for after the breeding-season, these horny crests are shed, like horns from the heads of stags, and the shore of an island in a lake in Nevada was found covered with these curious exuviæ.[1]

Changes of colour in the plumage according to the season depend, firstly on a double annual moult, secondly on an actual change of colour in the feathers themselves, and thirdly on their dull-coloured margins being periodically shed, or on these three processes more or less combined. The shedding of the deciduary margins may be compared with the shedding of their down by very young birds; for the down in most cases arises from the summits of the first true feathers.[2]

With respect to the birds which annually undergo a double moult, there are, firstly, some kinds, for instance snipes, swallow-plovers (Glareolæ), and curlews, in which the two sexes resemble each other, and do not change colour at any season. I do not know whether the winter plumage is thicker and warmer than the summer plumage, but warmth seems the most probable end attained of a double moult, where there is no change of colour. Secondly, there are birds, for instance, certain species of Totanus and other Grallatores, the sexes of which resemble each other, but in which the summer and winter plumage differ slightly in colour. The difference, however, in these cases is so small that it can hardly be an advantage to them; and it may, perhaps, be attributed to the direct action of the different conditions to which the birds are exposed during the two seasons. Thirdly, there are many other birds the sexes of which are alike, but which are widely different in their summer and winter plumage. Fourthly, there are birds, the sexes of which differ from each other in colour; but the females, though moulting twice, retain the same colours throughout the year, whilst the males undergo a change of colour, sometimes a great one, as with certain bustards. Fifthly and lastly, there are birds the sexes of which differ from each other in both their summer and winter plumage; but the male undergoes a greater amount of change at each recurrent season than the female—of which the ruff (Machetes pagnax) offers a good instance.

With respect to the cause or purpose of the differences in colour between the summer and winter plumage, this may in some instances, as with the ptarmigan,[3] serve during both

  1. Mr. D. G. Elliot, in 'Proc.Zool. Soc.' 1869, p. 589.
  2. Nitzsch's 'Pterylography,' edited by P L. Sclater. Ray Soc. 1867, p 14.
  3. The brown mottled summer