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Letter to Taylor White on the Kea (S504a: 1894)

Editor Charles H. Smith's Note: Taylor White made a presentation to the 8 October 1894 meeting of the Hawke's Bay (New Zealand) Philosophical Institute which included the text of a portion of a letter Wallace had sent him. The presentation was printed in volume 27 of the Transactions and Proceedings of the Royal Society of New Zealand that year; Wallace's letter appeared on page 277. I have included some of White's words at the beginning of the paper and just before and after Wallace's letter to provide context. To link directly to this page, connect with: http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/S504A.htm

[[p. 273]] . . . I have been prompted to write this paper on receipt of a letter from Mr. Alfred R. Wallace, F.R.S., who still holds to the old-time stories given of this bird long ago, and follows the lead of those who had but a second-hand knowledge of this bird, and so falls into errors, such as its leaving the berries of the forest-trees and taking to picking the kidney-fat out of live sheep running on the mountain-side, and being gradually trained thereto by commencing to sample the carcases of sheep hanging on the gallows or slaughter-place of the sheep-farmer . . .

[[p. 277]] . . . My knowledge of the kea has no reference to its habits at the present time, for I have for twenty years lived in a district where they are not to be found. As my excuse for writing this I append a copy of that portion of Mr. Wallace's letter which induced me to think it desirable that the habits of the kea should be remarked upon:--

Parkstone, Dorset, 3rd January, 1894.

Dear Sir,--

    I received from a friend of yours a number of the "Journal of Science," containing among other things some remarks on the habits of the kea. As the writer says that I have given "what is generally believed to be a correct description of the bird's habits, &c.," it will be time enough to change it when other New Zealand authorities accept Mr. Huddleston's account.

    I see in another article it is stated that the habit of tearing open the vegetable sheep for insects led to the kea's tearing open first dead sheep and then living ones. . . .

Yours very faithfully,
Alfred R. Wallace.

Taylor White, Esq.

    [[p. 278]] To this I reply that Mr. Huddleston's article on the kea is the best I have seen on the subject, and, so far as my own experience goes, is reliable, and for this reason I specially obtained that number of the "Journal of Science" which contained Mr. Huddleston's paper, and forwarded it to Mr. Wallace: hence his letter to me thereon. . . .

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