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Letter NEWHM:1996.H67.652

John Hancock to Earl Ravensworth (9 March 1878)

Hancock offers his opinion on the female Mallard displaying male plumage which Earl Ravensworth sent to him in February. He discusses male and female specimens of the Bar-tailed Pheasant he has recently prepared for display.




Copy to Earl Ravensworth

Newcastle on Tyne

9th. March 1878

My Lord,

Thinking your Lordship may wish to hear the result of my examination of the Duck in the Drake’s plumage submitted to me by your Lordship I now give it which is very short — As usual in other examples I have had through my hands the ovary [p.2] was almost absorbed, in fact quite shrivelled up –

The trachea simple as in the female, this of course was to be expected — The plumage seems to be the only only change that seems to take place is the plumage, and this after the bird has ceased to lay.

I have saved the head one wing & the three curled feathers of the tail –

[p.3] The bird was very good eating quite tender and very fat –

The male Bar tailed Pheasant1 is now in a case and I hope to have the pleasure of showing him to your Lordship some time during the spring –

I beg to remain | Your Lordships Obt. Svt | J Hancock [signature]


[p.4] I hope the female of the Bar-tailed Pheasant pleased and that your Lordship will do me the honour of accepting my work –

J.H. [signature]





1.  The Bar-tailed Pheasant, now more commonly known as Reeves’s Pheasant Syrmaticus reevesii is a native of northern and Central China.

Ravensworth received two specimens, a male and female, from Sir Dudley Marjoribanks in 1877 or 1878. It appears that he then gave the birds to Hancock to mount for display.

He was very interested in the species and wrote a note in the Society’s Transactions recounting their naturalisation in Scotland and their behavioural traits.

See Ravensworth. (1878) Transactions of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle-on-Tyne. Vol. VII (1) p.168. for the full article.