Page:Darwinism by Alfred Wallace 1889.djvu/236

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214DARWINISM
CHAP.

huge goatsuckers—build very similar nests, and their white eggs are protected in the same manner. Some large and powerful birds, as the swans, herons, pelicans, cormorants, and storks, lay white eggs in open nests; but they keep careful watch over them, and are able to drive away intruders. On the whole, then, we see that, while white eggs are conspicuous, and therefore especially liable to attack by egg-eating animals, they are concealed from observation in many and various ways. We may, therefore, assume that, in cases where there seems to be no such concealment, we are too ignorant of the whole of the conditions to form a correct judgment.

We now come to the large class of coloured or richly spotted eggs, and here we have a more difficult task, though many of them decidedly exhibit protective tints or markings. There are two birds which nest on sandy shores—the lesser tern and the ringed plover,—and both lay sand-coloured eggs, the former spotted so as to harmonise with coarse shingle, the latter minutely speckled like fine sand, which are the kinds of ground the two birds choose respectively for their nests. "The common sandpipers' eggs assimilate so closely with the tints around them as to make their discovery a matter of no small difficulty, as every oologist can testify who has searched for them. The pewits' eggs, dark in ground colour and boldly marked, are in strict harmony with the sober tints of moor and fallow, and on this circumstance alone their concealment and safety depend. The divers' eggs furnish another example of protective colour; they are generally laid close to the water's edge, amongst drift and shingle, where their dark tints and black spots conceal them by harmonising closely with surrounding objects. The snipes and the great army of sandpipers furnish innumerable instances of protectively coloured eggs. In all the instances given the sitting-bird invariably leaves the eggs uncovered when it quits them, and consequently their safety depends solely on the colours which adorn them."[1] The wonderful range of colour and marking in the eggs of the guillemot may be imputed to the inaccessible rocks on which

  1. C. Dixon, in Seebohm's History of British Birds, vol. ii. Introduction, p. xxvi. Many of the other examples here cited are taken from the same valuable work.