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Letter NEWHM:1996.H67.688

John Hancock to Howard Saunders (13 March 1874 )

Hancock thanks Saunders, a noted expert in gull identification, for taking time to look at his unidentified Shearwater specimen which he hopes to include in his forthcoming catalogue on the birds of Northumberland and Durham.




Copy to Howard Saunders

13th March 1874

My Dear Sir,

I am really very much obliged for the trouble you are taking with respect to my bird. — I am quite aware that it comes very near our P. anglorum, but the bill islarger than any specimen seven specimens of British killed specimens of the Shearwater I have compared it with –

I have never seen a young Shearwater in first plumage.  I have it in the downy state [p.2] and it is white down the centre of the underparts –

Before any one should I would be in my opinion convinced that the young is grey on the breast the bird should be taken from the nest before it could fly –

The only man who has ventured to pronounce that the bird is grey when young (that I have been able [to] refer to) is Morris –

My The bird in question was killed on the [p.3] Northumberland coast in September 1860 –

It is necessary I should determine whether it is our Shearwater or not at present as I am at present busy with a Catalog[u]e of the birds of the Counties of Northumberland & Durham at present — for our Nat. His. transactions.


Howard’s letter

sent to the Revd A. M. Norman



10th March 1874

Howard Saunders

Letter and answer

about Puffinus.





1.  Howard Saunders (1835 – 1907) was a British businessman and noted ornithologist who became a specialist in the identification of Gulls and Terns.

2.  Manx Shearwater Puffinus anglorum.

3.  Morris, Francis Orpen  A History of British Birds. 1870, Vols. 1-6.

4.  Hancock, John (1874) ‘A Catalogue of the Birds of Northumberland and Durham.’ Transactions of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne. Vol. 6. Hancock discusses his specimen, which he bought from Mr Duncan the bird-stuffer in Newcastle, on p.133 but he is still uncertain about it being an immature Manx Shearwater.

NEWHM_2012_H76 Alfred Merle Norman©NHSN5.  Canon Alfred Merle Norman (1831-1918) was an expert in invertebrate marine biology who joined the Tyneside Naturalists’ Field Club in 1858 when he was appointed to a curacy in Sedgefield, County Durham. In 1874 he was living at Burnmoor in Durham.

For a full biography see Transactions of the Natural History Society of Northumberland, Durham and Newcastle upon Tyne(1918-1921) Vol. V p.239.