Butterfly Identification: Callophrys Hairstreaks

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picture of a Sheridan's Hairstreak

The popularity of Callophrys hairstreak butterflies is a well kept secret. Two states, New Mexico (Sandia Hairstreak) and Wyoming Sherridan’s Hairstreak) chose species in the genera as their official state butterfly.

As the pictures on this page show, it’s easy being green if you are a Callophyrs species.

The number of species with green wings makes for difficult identification only in instances where the species overlap. Many of the species have limited geographical ranges.

Sheridan’s Hairstreak (Callophrys sheridanii), is one of the species with an overlapping range. It shares some physical similarities with another species, the Western Green Hairstreak (Callophrys affinis).

picture of a Western Green Hairstreak
Both species also share overlapping territory in portions of Western North America, and both species start the spring butterfly-pictures season in their respective territories.

Taking into account regional variations within species, Sheridan’s Hairstreak gets identified by the presence, more or less pronounced, of a white line across the green wing. In 2009, Wyoming designated the Sheridan’s green hairstreak as its official state butterfly-pictures.

picture of a nelson's hairstreak
Not to be outdone by the green butterflies, the dozen or so Juniper Hairstreak (Callophrys gryneus) subspecies tend to adopt a few colorful looks.

The picture shows the Nelson’s Hairstreak, which, in good sun, is fairly easy to identify by the purple shades on the wings.

picture of a Siva Juniper Hairstreak green
The large number of Juniper Hairstreak subspecies also means that some small variations exist between the subspecies. A few of the subspecies, for example, have a white frosted shade on the side of the wings.

A few of the species also have a nice green shade on the side of the wings. The Siva Juniper Hairstreak in the picture is probably the most widespread of the green version. They have a range that extends along the southern Rockies and into Texas and Oklahoma.

It looks strinkingly similar to the Hessel’s Hairstreak (Callophrys hesseli ), a New England specialty.

The Xami Hairstreak (Callophrys xami), not shown here, is another of the Callophyrs hairstreaks with green wings. It’s a South Texas specialty.

picture of a Brown Elfin butterfly
Brown Elfin (Callophrys augustinus) are probably the most common of the Elfin species. Their larvae feed on a variety of plants in the heather family.

Just look for a butterfly with dull brown wings. It represents the Elfins on this page. With the exception of the Moss’s Elfin and Western Pine Elfin, the other Elfin species are located east of the Rockies. The species are distinguished by some sore of pattern on the wings.

picture of a Thicket Hairstreak
While the Thicket Hairstreak (Callophrys spinetorum) has a range that extends throughout much of western North America, including the Rocky Mountain region, finding one can be difficult.

The caterpillars feed on dwarf mistletoe, parasitic plants that feed on pine and cypress (Cupressaceae) trees. Logging management practices promote mistletoe eradication, so populations are thought to have declined over the years.

The brown wings on the underside, also show a row of some gray, orange and black spots on the hindwing, along with a white postmedian band.