Spread-wing Skippers: Pictures and Identification Guide

Open wings while resting generally distinguishes the Spread-wing Skippers (Pyrginae), the second largest group of skipper butterflies, from other North American skippers.

The North American population divides some species among approximately twenty different genera, making for a relatively diverse subfamily. Most North Americans recognize them as duskywings, Checkered-Skippers and Scallopwings, the three genera with the broadest North American ranges.

Please press the green Skipper Butterflies button to learn more on the topic.

Checkered Skippers

picture of a two-banded checkered-skipper
Because of their extended range, Checkered Skippers might be the most easily recognized of the spread-winged skippers. Adaptable to both cold weather and tropical environments, eight Checkered-Skipper species (Pyrgus) call North America home. With the exception of northern New England, southern Texas and some desert regions in the Southwest, the Common Checkered-Skipper (Pyrgus communis) represents the genus.

The video at the top of the page shows the Common Checkered-skipper.

The picture at the top of this section shows the two banded checkered skipper, a more regionally based species, inhabits areas in the Northwest, including the northern part of the Rocky Mountains.

Duskywings: Erynsis Skippers

picture of Horace's Duskywing butterfly
While Duskywing skippers inhabit most areas of the United States, their ranges are generally geographically limited. The geographical limitations help with identification because as the pictures highlight, they tend to have brown wings with slight coloration differences.

Horace’s Duskywing, for example, inhabits Southeast coastal areas.

picture of a Funereal Duskywing
In areas with overlapping species, slight details might help with identification.

For example, the presence of the white border on the bottom wings of the Funereal Duskywing helps identify it. The tan patches on the edges of the top wing also serves as an ID clue. It’s a fairly common Southwest species.

picture of a Propertius duskywing, spread-winged skippers
Propertius duskywings inhabit mountains along the Pacific Coast. The top down view of butterfly in the picture highlights the silver shading on the otherwise brown wing color.

picture of a pacuvius duskywing, spread-winged skippers
Pacuvius Duskywings look very similar to Propertius Duskywings. In some of the subspecies, the presence of white feathery fringe on the bottom of the wing serves as a good identification clue. The picture shows a subspecies with a brown feathery fringe along the bottom of the wing.

There tends to be more brown in the upper wings for Pacuvius compared to the silver in the upper wings for the Propertius.

More Spread-wing Skippers

picture of an Erichson's White Skipper
Many of the spread-wing skippers are region based. Here are six examples, starting with Erichson’s White Skipper.

It’s one of two native Heliopyrgus species that inhabits border areas from Texas to Arizona. The picture highlights the Erichson’s resemblance to many Checkered-Skipper species. However, the strong white bands across the wings serves to differentiate it from Checkered-Skippers.

picture of a Laviana White skipper
The Laviana White Skipper, one of five, white winged, native Heliopetes species, breaks the brown wing skipper mold. Its range extends from South American to the southern border areas of the United States, in areas that host plants in the mallow family, the food plant for the caterpillar.

picture of a sickle-winged skipper
The Sickle-winged Skipper, the sole North American Eantis representative, lives in many parts of Central and South Texas. Physically, it grows to an above average skipper size. The rounded or sickle shaped forewings provide an explanation for the name. The wings tend to show a bit more color than represented in the picture. Depending on the light, a purple tint highlights the wing borders.

The caterpillars feed on citrus tree leaves. Adults nectar on a variety of flowering plants.

picture of an Arizona Powdered Skipper, part of the spread-wing skippers collection
Two Powdered Skipper species inhabit the Southwest region. This is the Arizona powdered skipper.

picture of a Texas Powdered Skipper, part of the spread-wing skippers collection
The picture shows a Texas Powdered Skipper. Like its relative the Arizona Powdered Skipper, it is defined by the soft look of the top wing pattern.