|Male Cairns Birdwing, Melbourne Zoo|
|Female, ventral view.|
|Range of Cairns Birdwing|
The Cairns Birdwing (Ornithoptera euphorion) is a species of birdwing butterfly endemic to northeastern Australia, and is Australia's largest endemic butterfly species. Other common names include Cooktown Birdwing and Northern Birdwing. The name Cairns in its common name is a reference to the Queensland, Australia city in the region where this butterfly is found.
Females have a wingspan reaching of up to 150 mm, males - 125 mm. A closely allied species, the New Guinea or Priam's Birdwing (Ornithoptera priamus) reaches 19 cm and is the largest butterfly species found in Australia, but it is not endemic.
Males have a predominately black upper wing with emerald green flashes, however the female lacks the green coloring, having a plain black upper wing with white patches. The female is the larger of the two sexes. The larvae or caterpillars of this species breed on several species of pipe vine, including Aristolochia tagala and Pararistolochia deltantha. The latter species is more commonly used at altitude, with A. tagala used at sea level.
Cairns Birdwings are found southwards from Mount Webb and Cooktown to Mackay in Queensland. Its favoured habitat is primary rainforest, although the species will breed readily in a home garden if the correct larval host plants are grown.
The leaves of the introduced Dutchman's Pipe (Aristolochia elegans) will kill the larvae of this species and several other swallowtail butterflies in Australia. It should not be planted anywhere in Queensland, New South Wales or the Northern Territory. Adults are freely attracted to flowers, including Lantana, Hibiscus and Bougainvillea. The species is abundant throughout its range and is not threatened.
Images of life cycle
- Braby (2004), p. 124.
- Braby (2004), p. 124.
- D'Abrera, B. (1975) Birdwing Butterflies of the World. Country Life Books, London.
- Braby, Michael F. (2004). The Complete Field Guide to Butterflies of Australia. CSIRO Publishing. ISBN 0-643-09027-4.
- Collins, N.M., Morris, M.G., IUCN ,1985 Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World: the IUCN Red Data Book (1985) IUCN pdf
- Haugum, J. & Low, A.M. 1978-1985. A Monograph of the Birdwing Butterflies. 2 volumes. Scandinavian Press, Klampenborg; 663 pp.
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- Action plan for Ornithoptera euphorion
- Northeastern Australia.Queensland’s tropical rainforests. Ecoregion
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