Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Butterflies of Newfoundland

 Last year while birding Bear Cove Road in Renews, I was astounded to see the number of Monarch Butterflies. They were dripping from the plants, dancing in pairs and filling the air with color. It was the first time I had witnessed this in Newfoundland. As a result, I became more curious about the Butterflies of Newfoundland.
The MUN Biology department lists 23 species of butterflies regularly found on the island of Newfoundland.  I have only documented nine of these fluttery insects. That leaves quite a few remaining for me to find.

It seems I have something of an investigative personality. When posed with the challenge to find something like a bird or butterfly, I am all over it.

Based on the collection of butterfly pictures I have gathered, we can't expect to see the arrival of these fluttery friends until some time in July. Then we have about three months to study them before they vanish again.

I have added some butterfly-friendly plants to my garden in the hopes of luring some in for a closer, at-home look. I was surprised to learn (just stunned, I guess) that different butterflies like different plants. This link http://butterflywebsite.com/butterflygardening.cfm  offers up a great butterfly-specific list of what to plant to draw in different species.
Of the butterflies listed on the MUN site, it seems that many of the 23 species frequently seen in Newfoundland, only two do not breed here. Those are the Monarch and the Tiger Swallowtail. Apparently, these two butterflies are blown in on the breezes. We certainly have plenty of breezes!

Of all the butterflies I saw last year, the Red Admiral was the most common. They first appeared in July, and I photographed my last one in the first week of September.

 It was at Second Pond around the swampy area and in the trail that I saw the most of this species. They were pretty regular in this area for over two months.
If there are no birds to entertain, watching these little insects can be quite engaging.

The "wings-up" view of this and most butterfly species looks quite different from the full-on, open posture.

This particular species seems to be referred to as a Short-tailed Swallowtail or as a Short-tailed Black Swallowtail. During my reading, I couldn't find anything that differentiated these two references.

Last summer, I bought a copy of The Ultimate Guide to Butterflies & Moths, published by Parragon. I found it to be very helpful.

The Tiger Swallowtail continues to be one of my favorites. While I saw this species frequently in Central Newfoundland, they don't seem to be as prevalent on the Avalon.

The scarcest of the butterflies that I saw last summer was the White Admiral. This is the only one I documented over the summer.

So, having said all of this, the best way for me to enjoy the arrival of the butterflies this year, is to do a little pre-study, starting with the butterfly list provided at MUN - http://www.mun.ca/biology/bpromoters/bgarden_butterflies.php - I shall study the pictures of each of these and set out to be able to identify them in the field. I have now set a personal goal to try to see all 23 frequent butterfly species documented on our island. How hard can that be? Something tells me, it won't be a "snap."

As a result of the helpful information provided by Gene Herzberg, I have added a link to eButterfly.ca under the eBird link on the right side of this page.


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  2. Lisa:

    You don't have to wait until July, three of our species of butterflies overwinter as adults, the Green Comma, the Mourning Cloak, and Milbert's Tortoiseshell.

    Also Jeff Harrison (an excellent birder and "butterflier"), who lives in Trepassey in the summer has produced an Avalon butterfly checklist and flight chart (shows the months when they have been seen on the southern avalon" which is available at the Portugal Cove South Interpretive Centre.

    You should also check out ebutterfly.ca, and excellent resource that is like ebird but for butterflies.


  3. What great resources! Thank you very much for sharing.

  4. Here is one more excellent source of information about butterflies in Canada



  5. I have a 1975 Provincial Parks publication "Some Newfoundland Butterflies" by A.Glen Ryan a now retired Parks planner living in St.John's . According to the info the photo you took of the Cabbage Butterfly is a female ,given the two dark markings on the fore-wing.

  6. While on a walk this morning I saw a White Admiral. It is very striking and you mention that it is scarce, thought you would be interested. Location is the Rotary Park Walking Trail, south side of Bennett's Rd., PCSP.

  7. Will milkweed plants thrive in Newfoundland climate? I understand that sighting a monarch is accidental, but will the population increase or is that not Possible?

  8. The Small White is indeed female, as Renardi states. Your last Red Admiral in fact a Painted Lady.

  9. In st johns and today I saw a big beautiful Tiger Swallowtail ! I actually found out the species from this blog !

  10. Glad the site was helpful to you. When I first started to learn the local species, I couldn't find any easy reference. Hence.... this site. See if you can find them all.