29 JANUARY 1898, Page 8

Curiosities of Bird Life. By Charles Dixon. (George Redway.) —Mr.

Charles Dixon is well known as the author of several popular works on ornithology, and is moreover a man of science and an observer. 'I he present work ix, according to his own

description, an account of the sexual adornments, wonderful dis- plays, strange sounds, sweet songs, curious nests, protective and recognitory colours, and extraordinary habits of birds. The volume covers such a deal of ground that one could wish the sub- jects were more limited and dealt with more fully. Mr. Dixon has collected a vast amount of curious information, particularly on the sexual adornments and love antics of birds. He is one of those who differ from Darwin's hypothesis of sexual selection, which attributed this ornate development of crests, wattles, and plumes in the male birds to the choice exerted by the female. He ascribes this wonderful variety and beauty of decoration to that surplus vital energy, vigour, and excitability which is most pro- nounced in nearly all male birds, and which leads to the growth of accessory plume, or other decoration, on parts of the body where muscular and nervous action are greatest. These decora- tions are transmitted by the strongest and finest birds to their posterity, not by female selection, but by the ability of the male bird to secure mates. The female bird, he contends, has little or no choice in the matter, especially with polygamous species ; and the males in which vital energy is most strongly pronounced secure the female, whether she be willing or not. The chapters on protective and recognition colours are full of interesting facts and hypotheses, but for these we must refer our readers to the book.