Page:The British Warblers A History with Problems of Their Lives - 5 of 9.djvu/42

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—should have been interrupted in the case of many birds, butterflies, and certain other insects, and replaced by one that does not necessarily imply any greater capacity for resistance on the part of the species in the inevitable struggle. When we actually see, or even reflect upon, such animals as stags or lions engaged in mortal combat, we cannot help beingimpressed with the grandeur of the scene, and, consequently, we give to those encounters the attention they deserve. But the conflicts between small and inconspicuous birds are apt to escape our attention, and not have an equal share of importance assigned to them. Yet of the two I know not whether the conflicts in bird life are not more strenuous and fierce, do not more often terminate fatally, and have not in the past exercised a greater influence in their own particular sphere. After witnessing these frequent struggles in bird life I confess to feelings of some astonishment that so little regard has been paid to them as a factor in the evolution of bird life. It is also stated—and it is an assumption which is necessary for the theory—that a female shows an active inclination or disinclination for a particular male. Surely this is not a very satisfactory explanation, for it shows signs of that tendency, so fatal to a proper understanding of animal subjective states, to resolve all their activities in terms of human analogy. But we have already seen that amongst a number of migratory species not only is there no evidence in favour of this same predilection, but that there is considerable evidence against it, for if a male gains a territory it gains a mate; and there is no reason to suppose that they differ in this respect from other species, except that by virtue of the fact of the males arriving before the females we are enabled to arrive at a more accurate interpretation. And supposing that a female were really attracted by one male more than by another, then, in the natural course of events, cases of possession of territory not leading to reproduction ought to be of not uncommon occurrence, for so long as it does mean reproduction, any special individual attractiveness to effect