• Saloni Rose

Trogons and Blue Admirals

I have been birding in the western ghats for the past few months. I swear, the experience is so rewarding. Every time I go into the forest, I end up seeing different species of birds (and butterflies too). Today, I had the rare opportunity to see a "Malabar Trogon" couple. Malabar Trogons are mainly found in Western Ghats in India, so I was very delighted to add it to the list of endemic species I record. They are sexually dimorphic, he male has a black head, red underside and a blue beak while the female is yellowish orange underside.


A Male Malabar Trogon

A Female Malabar Trogon

Two weeks ago, I decided to go the forest in the evening around 3:30 PM. About 500 m inside, where the cement footpath ends, I saw a Blue Admiral butterfly fluttering around. Blue Admirals have bright blue patches on black background on the upper side wings and a dull brown underside. This butterfly was not too shy and didn't fly even I came as close 1 m. It was going around in circles and often sitting on the same plant. Being naturally curious, I assumed it was a female and that she was moving around the host plant. I examined all the leaves for eggs and caterpillars meticulously. Even though there were signs of herbivory, I didn't find any eggs. However, on three separate occasions, I found the same butterfly circling around the area, sitting on the same plant.


A Blue Admiral

Wait, this seems like a patrolling behavior! So, I went online to check if there are any reports about patrolling in Blue Admirals. I found an interesting thesis on territorial behavior in Red Admirals.

Red Admirals occupy their territories from mid to late afternoon to sunset. These territories are

1. elliptical in shape (check)

2. often located in open spot surrounded by trees (check)

3. contain frequently visiting spots (check)

The males trace their territory two to six times per patrol and patrol several times a day. It's quite amazing that I observed similar behavior in Blue Admiral butterflies, which by the way belong to a different genus.


Reference:

1. Bitzer, Royce Justin, "Territorial behavior of the Red Admiral Butterfly, Vanessa atalanta (L.) (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) " (1995). Retrospective Theses and Dissertations. 10881