The Cairns Birdwing Butterfly – National Parks Association of Queensland

The Cairns Birdwing Butterfly

Author: NPAQ

The Cairns Birdwing Butterfly (Ornithoptera euphorion), also known as the Cairns Birdwing, is a captivating and iconic species that graces the tropical rainforests of north eastern Australia. Renowned for its impressive size and striking colours, this butterfly holds a special place in the hearts of nature enthusiasts and conservationists alike.

Appearance and Distribution:
The Cairns Birdwing Butterfly is one of the largest butterflies in Australia, with the males wingspan reaching up to 20 centimetres, while females are slightly larger, reaching up to 25 centimetres. The males flaunt vibrant wings of black and emerald green, with elegant splashes of gold and electric blue. In contrast, the females exhibit more subdued colours, with a predominantly black wing base adorned with iridescent green and yellow markings. This species is endemic to the rainforests of north eastern Australia, particularly the region around Cairns in Queensland.

Cairns Birdwing Butterfly (Ornithoptera euphorion) mating – Bernard Spragg

The lush vegetation and abundant flowering plants of these tropical habitats provide an ideal environment for the Cairns Birdwing to thrive.

Cairns Birdwing Butterfly
(Ornithoptera euphorion) – Yoa via Wikimedia

Life Cycle and Behaviour:
The females lay their eggs on specific host plants, mainly from the Aristolochia family, which serve as food sources for the caterpillars. The caterpillars go through several moulting stages, voraciously feeding on the leaves of their host plants. Once fully grown, they pupate and emerge as stunning adult butterflies.

Conservation Status and Threats:
The Cairns Birdwing Butterfly faces several threats to its survival. Habitat loss due to urban development, land clearing, and deforestation remains a significant concern. Additionally,  the introduction of non-native plants, such as the Dutchman’s pipevine, has affected the availability of suitable host plants for the butterfly’s caterpillars.

To protect this iconic species, various conservation initiatives have been implemented. Efforts focus on habitat preservation, promoting the use of native host plants, and raising  awareness among local communities and tourists about the importance of conservation. Additionally, organisations collaborate with authorities to enforce regulations against the collection and trading of these butterflies.

The Cairns Birdwing Butterfly stands as a symbol of the beauty and fragility of Australia’s rainforests. Its vibrant colours and impressive size captivate all who encounter it, reminding us of the awe-inspiring diversity of nature.

By valuing and protecting the Cairns Birdwing and its habitat, we ensure the continued existence of this majestic species and contribute to the preservation of the unique ecosystems it calls home. Let us appreciate and conserve the splendour of the Cairns Birdwing Butterfly for generations to come.

Cairns Birdwing Butterfly
(Ornithoptera euphorion) – CSIRO via Wikimedia Commons

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