While Texas claims the top spot for butterfly diversity in the United States, its neighbor New Mexico butterflies also tops the butterfly diversity chart.
The Rocky Mountains in the north and the deserts of the south bookend some beautiful fields and forests in the state. All the habitat diversity means the state butterfly population rockets past the three hundred species mark.
This introduction to New Mexico butterflies provides some basic tips with pictures and a video. Please press the green butterflies button for a variety of species in all the families listed below.
Finding butterflies in New Mexico is easy. Tourist destinations such as Albuquerque have butterfly pavilions at their Botanical Gardens.
Santa Fe Botanical Gardens also attracts butterflies year round. A bit to the north of Santa Fe, the Jemez Mountains hosts about one hundred and fifty species.
In the south, Las Cruces hosts a butterfly festival at the Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park.
Everywhere in between butterflies fly in fields, forests and back yard gardens. This introduction to New Mexico butterflies provides only a few butterfly pictures, along with a complete list of butterflies.
It divides into families, which align closely with wing color. Visitors looking for additional butterfly identification help can press the green butterfly button for more information.
New Mexico Butterflies – Brush foot
Easy butterfly identification usually begins with noting wing color. The large and often orange color wings of the brush foot family make them garden favorites.
The types of butterflies in New Mexico in the Brush-footed family extends down two long columns. A quick look at the species shows some definite desert Southwest border species such as Silver Emperor, Common Mestra, Dingy Purplewing, Blackened Bluewing, and Gray Cracker. With names such as Polixenes Arctic, Melissa Arctic, Chryxus Arctic, Alberta Arctic and Uhler’s Arctic, it would be a good guess those butterfly species inhabited the northern mountain regions. The picture shows and Empress Leilia, one of the Southwest regional species.
New Mexico does have one endangered butterfly, the Sacramento Mountain Checkerspot, pictured. It’s range is very limited to the Sacramento Mountains in the South. Recently, (August 2023) the USFWS proposed placing around 1,500 acres in the area as critical habitat to ensure it’s continued existence. The picture also comes courtesy of the USFWS.
As the list shows, New Mexico hosts variety of Checkerspot butterflies. The video at the top of the page shows the Theona Checkerspot another fairly common Southwest species. The picture and the video highlight another elementary butterfly tip, wing patterns help with initial identification. The checkerspot pattern on the wings explains the common name.
Other more common crescent, comma milkweed and lady species fly the fields, forests, parks and residential areas around New Mexico. The picture shows the Gulf Fritillary with distinct orange wings and markings.
Banded Orange Heliconian
Great Spangled Fritillary
Arizona Red-spotted Purple
West Coast Lady
Great Basin Wood-Nymph
Butterflies: Whites and Yellows
Visitors to the Land of Enchantment will be enchanted at the many opportunities to photography white and yellow butterfly species that fit nicely on their life lists. Chiricahua whites, Statira Sulphur, Angled Whites and more are very rare species. The picture shows a more common Western white species.
Yellow butterflies abound in the state. Identification tips often focus on size and wing patterns. Side views of the wing patterns usually help with identification.
The picture shows a Tailed Orange butterfly, with the extended tail looking portion on the edge of the wings accounting for the common name.
Southern Rocky Mountain Orangetip
Great Southern White
Queen Alexandra’s Sulphur
Large Orange Sulphur
Blues, Hairtreaks and Coppers
Green butterfly fans will enjoy New Mexico. Stay awhile and photograph the Apama Western Green, Sheridan’s Green Hairstreak, Xami Hairstreak, Silver-banded Hairstreak and Arizona Hairstreak (pictured). They’re all green.
Plan to stay an entire season in order to photographically capture the beauty and diversity of all the blues, hairstreaks and coppers in the state.
Western Square-dotted Blue
Rocky Mountain Dotted-Blue
Great Purple Hairstreak
Western Green Hairstreak
Apama Western Green
Sheridan’s Green Hairstreak
Western Pine Elfin
New Mexico Butterflies: Metalmarks
The more colorful subtropical Metalmarks don’t have a presence in New Mexico. However the nice species does represent a nice diversity. The picture shows an Arizona metalmark.
- Fatal Metalmark
- Arizona Metalmark
- Zela Metalmark
- Ares Metalmark
- Mormon Metalmark
- Mexican Metalmark
- Sonoran Metalmark
- Palmer’s Metalmark
- Nais Metalmark
New Mexcio Butterflies: Swallowtails
Southwest, Northwest, East and West is the rhyme and reason for New Mexico Swallowtail butterflies. Broad-banded Swallowtails and Ornythion Swallowtails are Southwest based. The Parnassians are mountain and Northwest based. Eastern and Western Tiger swallowtails bridges the coast to coast divide.
Visitors will never run out of swallowtail butterfly photography opportunities. Enjoy. The picture shows an Old World swallowtail.
- Rocky Mountain Parnassian
- Pipevine Swallowtail
- Polydamas Swallowtail
- Old World Swallowtail
- Black Swallowtail
- Anise Swallowtail
- Indra Swallowtail
- Western Tiger Swallowtail
- Pale Swallowtail
- Two-tailed Swallowtail
- Palamedes Swallowtail
- Giant Swallowtail
- Broad-banded Swallowtail
- Ornythion Swallowtail