Welcome to the Oregon butterflies section.
Size and a diverse landscape provide Oregon with plenty of different butterfly habitat. It easily translates in a diverse group of butterflies. The video at the top of the page shows a handful of species, highlighting different wing colors.
Visitors looking for butterflies would do well to start at the coast, the coastal range mountains, the Cascades and areas East of the Cascades, especially the Steens. Additionally, the Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument in the southern part of the state is an especially good butterfly hot spot.
The story of Oregon butterflies is not always sunshine. Two species, The Taylor’s Checkerspot and the Fender’s Blue are listed as endangered.
Taylor’s Checkerspot is a very colorful butterfly and a subspecies of the Edith Checkerspot. Habitat destruction accounts for most of the population decline.
Its primary habitat, oak and grasslands have been converted for agriculture and urban development purposes. In 2013 the US Fish and Wildlife Service released their habitat plans for the species saying:
the Service designated 1,921 acres in Washington and 20 acres in Oregon. Almost 400 of those acres belong to conservation organizations that support the designation as part of their missions
Currently conservation organizations such as the Xerces Society are working on a two-pronged approach to help the populations: habitat rehabilitation and captive rearing.
In the past decade, population numbers have increased. Currently the use of pesticides in agricultural lands near the Taylor checkerspot areas is under consideration.
Visitors looking for butterfly identification help can press the green butterfly button for more information.
Oregon Butterflies, Blues, Hairstreaks and Coppers
Spring, summer and fall, there is always a healthy diversity of Oregon butterflies in the gossamer-wing category. Like many Western states, Oregon does have nice balance of coppers, blues an hairstreaks. Traveling east and west of the Cascade Mountains is necessary for seeing and photographing the entire bunch.
The picture shows an Arrowhead blue, they are often found in particular mountain locations.
A careful comparison of any blue butterfly side view begins the identification task. Consider the next picture, the Acmon blue. It’s primarily a West Coast species. The side of the bottom wings are covered by orange spots with a bit of blue fluorescence.
Hairstreak butterflies are also abundant throughout Oregon. With the exception of the Gray Hairstreak, most have a regional habitat. The Cascade Mountains often, but not always, serves as a primary regional dividing line.
The picture shows a Nelson’s Hairstreak. Cedar trees serve as the larval host plant for the species and therefore it’s distributed across Oregon where ever the trees grow.
Identification tips for hairstreak butterflies is similar to blue butterfly identification. A side view of the butterfly, noting the colors and patterns along the edge of the wing close to the hairs on the bottom part of the wings represents the best initial ID tip. The picture shows a Thicket hairstreak.
The following columns provide a checklist of the blues, hairstreaks and coppers in the state.
Great Purple Hairstreak
Western Green Hairstreak
Sheridan’s Green Hairstreak
Western Pine Elfin
Mountain Mahogany Hairstreak
Sagebrush Sooty Hairstreak
Western Square-dotted Blue
Rocky Mountain Dotted-Blue
Sierra Nevada Blue
Butterflies: Whites and Yellows
Oregon butterflies consist of a variety of species in the family Pieridae. Most people know them as the the butterflies with white wings and yellow wings.
Many of the white butterflies have a regional range in the state. The picture shows an Orangetip butterfly, one of the white wing butterflies with a bit of sparkle added to the wings. They are fairy common at all elevations, as long as the larval host plant, mustards, is present. Of course, spring gets to the mountains later than it arrives in the valley so visitors can catch Orangetips in May in the valleys through July in the mountains.
Oregon is also a great place for visitors to catch up on a few of the Yellow butterflies for their checklist.
With the exception of perhaps the Western Sulphur, pictured, the other sulphurs have a presence from coast to coast. Catch the Western Sulphurs in the mountains.
Queen Alexandra’s Sulphur
Brush Footed Butterflies
The list shows that the types of butterflies in Oregon belonging to the Brush footed family tend to fall into a few common genera such as Fritillaries, Checkerspots, Commas and Crescents.
As tourists travel up and down the coast, or from west to east across the mountains, it’s good to remember that fact. There’s always a new butterfly species around the corner or at the next rest stop.
Great Spangled Fritillary
Painted Lady (side view)
West Coast Lady
California Sister (side view)
The pictures are a starting guide for the brush-foots of Oregon. Most of the Fritillary butterflies are found in the mountain areas. The Cascade-Siskiyou National Monument is an especially good place for Fritillary butterflies.
The following list rounds out the remainder of the Brush footed species. Please press the butterflies button at the top of the page for additional butterfly pictures and identification help.
Great Basin Fritillary
Great Basin Wood-Nymph
Oregon Butterflies: Swallowtails
Oregon hosts a variety of Swallowtail species, including two Parnassian species. The official state insect is the Oregon Swallowtail. Pale Swallowtails look very similar to western Tiger Swallowtails. The difference is a more pale looking set of yellow wings.
- Clodius Parnassian
- Rocky Mountain Parnassian
- Pipevine Swallowtail
- Old World Swallowtail
- Oregon Swallowtail
- Anise Swallowtail
- Indra Swallowtail
- Western Tiger Swallowtail
- Pale Swallowtail
- Two-tailed Swallowtail
- Mormon Metalmark