Central Oregon Butterflies

A butterfly flitting about in a meadow or forest is a sure sign of spring and summer in Central Oregon. The longer, warmer days bring these colorful creatures out in the meadows of Camp Polk Meadow Preserve, the woodlands of the Metolius Preserve, and the juniper covered slopes of Whychus Canyon Preserve. Here are eight common butterflies you can find in Central Oregon.


A butterfly flitting about in a meadow or forest is a sure sign of spring and summer in Central Oregon. The longer, warmer days bring these colorful creatures out in the meadows of Camp Polk Meadow Preserve, the woodlands of the Metolius Preserve, and the juniper covered slopes of Whychus Canyon Preserve. Here are eight common butterflies you can find in Central Oregon:

 

Cabbage white, Pieris rapae: Look for these small (<2”) butterflies in gardens, around town, or just about everywhere! Cabbage whites are white with black tips on their forewings. You’ll notice female Cabbage whites have two black spots while males only have one. These butterflies are extremely common in nearly all open spaces. You can even find them near weeds, on roadsides, and near dandelion patches.



California tortoiseshell, Nymphalis californica: Look for this medium sized (< 2.5”) butterfly on sunny days in Central Oregon. With their wings spread they are bright orange and may be confused for monarch butterflies. You’re likely to find them on local trails where they frequently “puddle” sipping salts and minerals from damp soil. Watch out for when they gather in huge swarms near the mountains during the summer! 


Mourning cloak, Nymphalis antiopa: These larger (2-4”) butterflies are some of the first to arrive in the spring. Mourning cloaks have a purpley-black color with a bright yellow margin. Look closely at one to see that they have iridescent blue spots. Mourning cloaks overwinter in Central Oregon emerging in the spring to lay a new batch of eggs, then spend the hottest months in a kind of hibernation waiting until the fall when they can prepare again for winter.


Red admiral, Vanessa atalanta: If you see a flash of red in the sky, it might be one of these medium sized (< 3”) butterflies. Red admirals have an erratic flight path, but you can identify them easily by the red bands on their hind and forewings. You can find Red admirals just about anywhere. One neat thing about them is that their caterpillars will wrap themselves up in a nest of leaves and silk while they eat and grow. Our staff see these around town all the time.


Sara’s orangetip, Anthocharis sara: This small (< 1.5”) butterfly is easy to identify by its bright-orange tips! Look for these butterflies in the spring near fields, meadows, and canyons. Some adults are more yellow than others. Both male and female butterflies will have the orange tipped wings, but you might notice that male orange spots are larger.




Spring (echo) azure, Celastrina echo: You can find these small (< 1.25”) butterflies throughout Central Oregon. Spring azures are a chalky, pale grey-blue with black spots. Females will have more black toward the edge of their wings. These butterflies will lay their eggs on Ceanothus (like Central Oregon’s snowbrush). Look for them flitting about the edges of woods, in open fields, near wetlands or even in suburbs. These are often the first blues we’ll see each year!

  

Monarch, Danaus plexippus: Though they may not be common in Central Oregon, no butterfly list would be complete without Monarchs. These larger (<3.5”) butterflies are known for their beautiful orange and black pattern, their incredible migration, and sadly, their devastating decline. Central Oregon is in the migration pathway of western monarchs and served as a historical breeding ground for these butterflies.

Today, the Deschutes Land Trust is working to improve monarch butterfly habitat by planting milkweed and promoting native pollinator plant growth on our Preserves and in our community! Learn how you can help here.

 


You can find these and other butterflies at your Land Trust Preserves! Want to learn more? Join us for a guided butterfly walk!