Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Butterflies of Oz

Male Cairns Birdwing (Photo by Narca)

We weren't in Australia at the best season for butterflies to be on the wing, yet a few were flying in the tropical northeast, and the butterfly house at Kuranda gives splendid photo ops at any time, of several showy species, including the spectacular Cairns Birdwing. Birdwings are in the swallowtail family.

Most of Australia's 416 butterfly species live in the rainforest, monsoon forest, and other moist habitats of the northern and eastern rims of the continent. The vast, dry interior has many fewer species.

Black Jezebel on bottlebrush (Photo by Narca)

Whites and sulphurs are gorgeously represented by the jezebels. We found Black Jezzies from the base of Mt. Lewis, to Inskip Point, to the Iron Range. Most were nectaring on flowering eucalypts.

Harlequin Metalmark in Iron Range (Photo by Narca)

Those of you familiar with the stunning array of gemlike metalmarks in the American tropics may be surprised to learn that only a single metalmark occurs in Australia, the Harlequin, which we were lucky to find in the Iron Range.

Lesser Wanderers (Photo by Narca)

Lesser Wanderers are relatives of the familiar Monarch, and they were flying at Townsville Commons.

For a slide show of more Australian butterflies, click on the link to my art gallery––and enjoy!

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