Australian Lurcher and Leafwing butterflies

The Lurcher

orange butterfly
Lurcher on wisteria

The Lurcher (Yoma sabina, Nymphalidae) is a large, beautiful butterfly which we hardly know in Townsville. There have been one or two reports of stray individuals over the years but the accepted range was always to our north – basically the tropical coast from about Cairns to Cape York. Braby notes, however, in the second edition (2016) of the Complete Field Guide to Butterflies of Australia that its “range has recently expanded southwards to Townsville.”

The bold orange and brown markings of its upper side are quite distinctive. The only species it might be confused with, even at a distance, are the Rustic (not so dark near the body) and the Leafwing (below).

The underside is a different story. Like so many other butterflies, the Lurcher pretends to be a dead leaf. Braby speculates that the underside coloration may vary seasonally. That wouldn’t be too surprising, since the the Evening Brown, Melanitis leda, does just that. (This link will take you to a set of photos showing seasonal variations.)

lurcher undersides
Lurcher pretending to be a dead leaf

The background of this image bears some explanation. The butterfly was discovered indoors this morning, having presumably flown in through an open window yesterday in search of a safe place to rest and settling on some clothing. We carried it outside for this photo but when we tried to transfer it to a more natural background it awoke and flew up into the tangle of wisteria which you see in the top photo.

The Leafwing

The Australian Leafwing, Doleschallia bisaltide, is just a little smaller, around 62 mm rather than 67. The species’ range extends right down the Queensland coast and into northern NSW but I rarely see them here in Townsville, perhaps because they prefer rainforest; I might average one sighting per year in my garden, as against weekly sightings of Crows and daily sightings of the Common Eggfly. The photos below, new to Green Path, show two different individuals seen in 2009.

Leafwing on pentas flowers
butterfly and leaves
Leafwing demonstrating the appropriateness of its name

2 thoughts on “Australian Lurcher and Leafwing butterflies”

  1. Hi Malcolm. Thanks for this useful post. I googled Lurcher and there was areference from Townsville! A Lurcher was in my living room in Kelso at lunchtime today – the background of my photos involve window screen tracks and the jar I used to catch it :-(. Nevertheless, enough to identify it from Braby. I was 90% sure, but your photos confirmed my ID. The outline of the wing is identical, but mine has a marked band of spots on the upper wing, continuing to the bottom.
    I moved here in October and promptly became a butterfly fan. Cairns Birdwing on Day 1 where were staying in Hermit Park. Then when we came to Kelso, there was such a variety and so many in my garden. Number and variety have reduced in January but treats such as the lurcher are still to be had.
    Great to have found your blog! I’m a fan.

    1. Hi, Brigid,
      Your kind of interest is what Green Path is here for – thanks for the kind words.
      By Townsville standards we’ve had a poor year for butterflies, so if we get a decent wet season you’re going to *love* the next few months.

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