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Southern Birdwing

Southern Birdwing
Photo Information
Copyright: Ram Thakur (ramthakur) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 4316 W: 231 N: 14052] (56953)
Genre: Animals
Medium: Color
Date Taken: 2008-08-17
Categories: Insects
Camera: Nikon D200, Sigma EX 105mm F2.8 DG Macro, 58mm UV
Exposure: f/5.6, 1/400 seconds
Photo Version: Original Version
Theme(s): Butterfly Encyclopedia [view contributor(s)]
Date Submitted: 2008-08-20 1:35
Viewed: 6876
Points: 46
[Note Guidelines] Photographer's Note

I shot this giant of a butterfly in southern Goa last week. There were actually two of them, maybe a male and a female, though I couldn’t tell the difference. I saw the pair in the garden of the resort I was staying at. It was about 8 in the morning and these butterflies with their huge bird-like wings fluttering constantly kept moving from one flower to another. Because of the fast movement of wings, it was difficult to take a clear picture. Excited at my first view of this big but beautiful butterfly, I took 60 shots and exhausted my 1 GB memory stick in no time!

The Southern Birdwing (Troides minos) is a large and striking Swallowtail butterfly endemic to Peninsular India. With a wingspan of 140-190mm, it is the largest butterfly found in southern India.
It was earlier considered a subspecies of the Common Birdwing (Troides helena) but is now recognised as a valid species.
The species is more common in the Western Ghats, which is a biodiversity hotspot with a high degree of endemism in many taxa. It is much sought after by collectors and is a highlight of many butterfly-tours in the Western Ghats.


Male and female. Differ from Troides helena cerberus as follows.
Male: Hindwing: the black along the dorsal and terminal margins both on upper and undersides much broader; on the upperside entirely filling interspace 1, on the underside with only a narrow streak of yellow at the angle between the median vein and vein 2; the cone-shaped black markings on the terminal margin shorter and broader; on the costal margin the black is narrower than in cerberus, barely extended below vein 8 except at the base and apex of the wing where it broadens; the abdomen is dull yellow above and below not shaded with black.

Female: Hind wing: the black on the costal margin as in cerberus, but there is always a large yellow spot at base of interspace 7; interspace 1 black, with a pale patch in the middle; the black terminal border broader, the inwardly extended cone-shaped markings prominent, those in interspaces 2 and 3 with pale buff lateral edgings, extended inwards to the post-discal spots. In both male and female the hind wing on the upperside is clothed with soft, silky, long brownish-black hairs from base along the dorsal area.

Expanse: 140-190 mm.

Habitat: Southern India. Bombay to Travancore.

Larva: Roughly cylindrical, tapers a little to each end, with two rows of fleshy processes somewhat curved forwards and a double row on each side that are much shorter. On the 2nd, 3rd and 4th segments an additional long pair between the dorsal and lateral rows. Head smooth and black; body of a uniform dark madder-brown, prettily lighted with a tinge of pink at the points of some of the fleshy processes; dorsal process on the 8th segment and a lateral pair on the 7th pinkish-white, with a band of the same colour uniting them.

Pupa: Suspended by the tail and a band that encircles it much nearer the head than is usual with Papilio pupae. In form stout, flattened, dilated in the middle, with head and thorax thrown back. Head somewhat angular and tuberculated; two of the abdominal segments each with a prominent dorsal pair of pointed tubercles. Colour usually light brown, with a strongly contrasting saddle of old gold. (After Davidson & Aitken) – Mr. T. A. Sealy (Proc. Ent Soc. 1875 p. 9) states- "The pupa possesses the power of making a curious noise like pha-pha! and makes it very loudly when touched; the noise is accompanied (perhaps produced) by a short contraction of the abdominal segments. I thought at first it was merely produced by the rubbing of one ring of the pupa-case against the next, but the sound did not resemble a mere frictional sound, it was more like the sound of a rush of air through small holes. I tried to produce it with a dead chrysalis but failed: the pupa sometimes contracted on being touched without making the noise, and appeared unable to make the noise until some time was given to allow it to recover its vigour." Messrs. Davidson and Aitken have also noticed this power in the pupa, but they speak of it "as a husky squeaking noise, produced apparently by friction of the abdominal rings."


Western Ghats and parts of the Eastern Ghats


The butterfly is locally very common in the southern and central Western Ghats. Also found in southern Maharashtra and northern Goa where it is uncommon. Despite its restricted range and endemicity, the butterfly is not known to be threatened but the IUCN recommends continuous monitoring.


Found up to 3000 feet in the Western Ghats. Found in diverse habitats from low-land evergreen forests near the coast to mixed deciduous forests, dry scrub and agricultural fields.


Active during early morning hours when both sexes feed in the forest on Lantana and diverse food plants. Later on, it is seen sailing as high as 30 to 40 feet over the countryside until it descends later in the evening to feed again. It flies in a leisurely manner circling around jungle clearings and also frequents hill-tops. A determined flier, it is known to cover very large distances before settling. The only food source is nectar; it also visits gardens and orchards and sips from domestic plants such as Mussaenda, Ixora and Lantana.


Though it flies all the year round, it is abundant during Monsoon and Post-Monsoon periods.


Spherical eggs laid singly on the edges of the undersides of young leaves and shoots.


Velvety maroon red with shiny black head and four rows of fleshy bright red tubercles. Grey markings on the back with a broad oblique pink white band on the 7th and 8th segments. These are heavily parasitised by tiny Braconid wasps.


Pale brown or green, marked with fine brown striations and minute markings. Found on the underside of leaves. If touched, it sways and makes hissing sounds.


The larval host plants of these butterflies are small creepers and climbers of the family Aristolochiaceae such as Aristolochia indica, Aristolochia tagala and Thottea siliquosa. The host plant toxins sequestered by the butterfly during its larval stage make it unpalatable to predators. Its flight and bright colouration advertise its unpalatability.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Southern_Birdwing

Thanks for stopping by.

Kaszek, boreocypriensis, Seabird, mayuresh, eqshannon, jaycee, sranjan, gracious, karan0212, rdfoto, red45, uleko, gannu, albert, cicindela, LordPotty has marked this note useful
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To Loro: Thanksramthakur 1 08-20 22:07
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Critiques [Translate]

Hello Ram!
This is really amazing. I never seen before such beautiful butterfly. Great view on it here and very good composition.
Congratulations and TFS!

Hi Ram, Sir,
A perfect macro shot of a beautifully patterned Southern Birdwing with great details on its wings and excellent DOF.
TFS and greetings from TRNC,

Hello Ram,

Excellent POV, you captured this beauty very well. Excellent DOF and sharpness. Splendid colours. The BG is great too. You were very lucky to see this butterfly.

Hi, Ram,

this is very elegant!! thanks for shairng this beauty with excellent details, pattern and colours.

Man Yee

Hello Ram sir,
Wonderful closeup shot of southern birdwing,superb pov and lovely colours,well done,

  • Great 
  • lousat Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 6595 W: 89 N: 15659] (65489)
  • [2008-08-20 3:27]

Hi Ram,what a beautifull specie!!! Never seen like that,wonderfull details and colors and a great perfection of the choice of point of view!!My best best compliemnts,this is great!! Luciano

Very nice shot. absolutely great backround and colours!

  • Great 
  • GaryT Gold Star Critiquer [C: 102 W: 7 N: 236] (160)
  • [2008-08-20 5:36]

Very interesting shot. I especially like the way the background works with the stripes on the butterfly. Gary

  • Great 
  • cako Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 485 W: 0 N: 772] (3395)
  • [2008-08-20 7:07]

Hi Ram
exellent image
very well done.

  • Great 
  • Loro Silver Note Writer [C: 8 W: 0 N: 42] (557)
  • [2008-08-20 7:09]
  • [+]

Una imagen preciosa y fantática, felicidades!

I have read much about Goa..and since you noticed my new bio pic...you can tell from whom or what type I get my input on Goa:-) At any rate, this is of course another super fine image in your almost...not quite, newish style of flat winged and perfect focus with bright stick out colours...somehow it fits the Goa area which I have in my mind...Very nice and another good use of that frame!

  • Great 
  • jaycee Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2454 W: 10 N: 8044] (25460)
  • [2008-08-20 10:27]

Hi Ram,

I don't think I have seen this stunning looking butterfly before! The black, yellow and white are beautiful. I love the shape and the magnificent markings. A wonderful macro with superb details of this most unusual butterfly.


Dear Ram Sir,
Gorgeous is the word I was looking for this amazing capture. So beautiful with excellent sharpness & details. So now Goa has some thing to swank like carnival over and above your NOIDA ;)TFS.

Hello Mr.Ram,
Much appreciated for your time to visit my Waiheke image with kind comment!
Your knowledge of nature is highly appreciated in this site too with a quality gallery since I joined this site! my respect!
I find that India do have a lots of opportunity on many species of butterfly and thanks for sharing with us all!
you had captured well always like this Birdwing in good sharpness, nice colour and wonderful details
well done
take care and sincere regards from NZ

Hi Sir...

As always, amazing Photograph.
You are a great inspiration sir.


  • Great 
  • rdfoto Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 372 W: 0 N: 719] (3295)
  • [2008-08-20 12:55]

Bonjour Ram
Superbe prise, couleurs et netteté, image bien cadrée et beau sujet. Bravo
Amicalement Robi

  • Great 
  • red45 Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 2636 W: 74 N: 9091] (31094)
  • [2008-08-20 14:07]

Hello Ram!

Breathtaking specie - so big and so exotic! Patterns on its wings looks like kind of tribal paintings. Excellent POV and colours.

Hi Ram,

This must have been a prize catch for you and that too in Goa, where people look for other kind of pictures..I mean sea scapes etc.And particularly now it has become one croweded place, good you confined to your resort garden and made use of situation. TFS.

  • Great 
  • uleko Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 3396 W: 172 N: 3310] (10940)
  • [2008-08-21 6:03]

Hello Ram,
This proves you had a good time in Goa and I fully understand your excitement when seeing this beauty! :-) I've only seen this Birdwing once in the wild and I remember being very excited due to its beauty and large size. Even though they're constantly moving and fluttering their wings you've got a brilliant capture of this one almost resting and showing great details and beautiful colours. I like the light background too that makes it really stand out.
Many thanks and best wishes, Ulla

  • Great 
  • gannu Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Note Writer [C: 988 W: 4 N: 3277] (14761)
  • [2008-08-21 8:53]

Hello Ram Sir, Nice shot with the wings open and with lovely colors. I am not sure whey the left portion of the wing is slightly OOF. Is it due to lighting conditions/ but the yellow marking on the lower portion is s beautiful. Ganesan

  • Great 
  • efsus Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 415 W: 11 N: 843] (3947)
  • [2008-08-21 23:34]

Merhaba Ram,
Her ne kadar geri planın olumsuz katkısı olsa da ustaca çekilmiş olmasından dolayı kelebeğin güzelliğinden birşey kaybetmesine izin vermemişsiniz. Renkler ve detaylar harika görünüyor. Eline sağlık.

Hello Ram,
What a beauty! I'm talking about the butterfly but your photo is also oustanding
Well done and thanks for sharing

Hi Ram, congratulations for all your splendid latest post with wonderful butterflies, great macro with fine details of original design on wings and excellent sharpness, very well done, ciao Silvio

Wow! This is great species! What a size and colours! The mosaic od black and yellow tones (especially erfectly seen in hind wings) is simply lovely. Adding very good sharpness and DoF we have a unique photo Ram. My congratulations and also asking for more! :>
Friendly yours,

Hi dear Ram ,
Nice shot as always from you.
excellent details and amazing colours.

Kind regards

Hello Ram,
No points left at the moment I'm afraid,but I just love this shot.
What a beautiful specimen.
Your capture is perfect in exposure and detail.
Great colour too.
Marvellous work.

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