Butterflies in our complex

[This post was updated with new sightings till December 2021. A total of 38 species were identified.]

All of us have surely encountered butterflies at some point in time (apart from the butterflies in our stomachs!). We learn about them in primary school. Sometimes they fly into us and make us jump. Often we see them just flutter by, so quick that we can’t even give them a second glance.

Ever since lockdown, we haven’t really been anywhere in Mumbai. No restaurants, no malls, no parks – except for the park in our Whispering Palms Complex, that is usually quite empty. Over the last few months during our daily walks, we looked forward to seeing the different birds in our backyard. More recently though, we noticed the many different butterflies – not surprising, given the sprawling gardens with abundance of trees and flowers, some wild and some nurtured.

Great Eggfly butterfly
Great Eggfly male sucking out nectar

With their beautiful wings in a variety of designs and colours, butterflies are in a way like birds. In Marathi in fact, butterflies are called “flowerbirds”.

पाखरू ⇄ bird फुलपाखरू ⇄ butterfly
Blue Mormon butterfly
Blue Mormon – the biggest butterfly of Maharashtra is the “State Butterfly”. Its upper is a brilliant blue (a small glimpse visible in this picture).
Blue Mormon butterfly
Blue Mormon – at BNHS Goregaon
[Addendum 16th October 2021]

We started taking pictures and identifying them with the help of books and the internet, and when we do this we refresh our school memory and also learn new things about them.

Butterflies belong to a large insect group called Lepidoptera (scaly wing), along with moths. They are classified into two big families – Skippers that have their antennae tips hooked, and Papilionoidea (True Butterflies) that have clubbed antennae tips. The open wings view (or upper) is usually quite different from the closed wings view (where we see the butterfly’s face and the under of the wings). Certain species are variable, meaning that the butterflies may not look exactly what you see in the books.

The hours just fly by, watching them as they move from one plant to another, haltingly rest, and come back to the same plant again. Butterfly adults live from a couple of weeks to a maximum of 8 months. They look aimless sometimes, but for them, it’s all about feeding and propagating the species in the limited time that they have.

In Mumbai’s hill station Matheran alone, over 140 species of butterfly have been found. In a BNHS Reserve field guide, they have featured over 60 species that are commonly seen in the their premises in Mumbai Suburbs where we are located.

Here are over 20 species [Edit: many more being added] that we have captured for the record, some on a basic Canon DSLR, some on mobile phone cameras. There are others that we have seen, that have eluded our fumbling fingers.

Edit: List of species, July 2021 to December 2021

Skippers

  1. Small Branded Swift
  2. Blank Swift
  3. Indian Palm Bob
  4. Common Redeye

Swallowtails

  1. Lime
  2. Common Rose
  3. Common Mormon
  4. Blue Mormon
  5. Tailed Jay
  6. Common Jay
  7. Common Mime

Whites and Yellows

  1. Common Grass Yellow
  2. Common Emigrant
  3. Mottled Emigrant
  4. Common Wanderer
  5. Great Orange Tip
  6. Psyche
  7. Cabbage White

Brush-footed

  1. Blue Tiger
  2. Plain Tiger
  3. Tawny Coster
  4. Common Baron
  5. Common Bushbrown
  6. Common/Dingy Evening Brown
  7. Chocolate Pansy
  8. Grey Pansy
  9. Lemon Pansy
  10. Common Palmfly
  11. Tailed Palmfly
  12. Great Eggfly
  13. Blue Oak Leaf
  14. Common Indian Crow
  15. Common Castor
  16. Commander

Blues

  1. Gram Blue
  2. Dark Grass Blue
  3. Indian Red Pierrot
  4. Monkey Puzzle

Skippers

Skippers are a bit challenging to positively identify, especially for the novice. They’re mostly different shades of brown with distinctive markings that require pictures from different angles. Now with them restless as ever, getting one shot itself is an achievement of sorts. With the help of members of Butterflies of India group on Facebook, we narrowed down on the possible species, hopefully not off the mark.

Small Branded Swift

Small Branded Swift butterfly
Small Branded Swift (under) [earlier thought to be Vindhyan Bob]
Small Branded Swift or could be Conjoined Swift butterfly
Small Branded Swift [other possibility is Conjoined Swift]
Small Branded Swift or maybe Conjoined Swift butterfly
Small Branded Swift [other possibility is Conjoined Swift]

Blank Swift

Blank Swift (under)
Blank Swift (under)

Indian Palm Bob

Indian Palm Bob butterfly
Indian Palm Bob (under)
[Addendum 9th Oct 2021]
Indian Palm Bob butterfly
Indian Palm Bob (under)
[Addendum 27th November 2021]

Common Redeye

Common Redeye butterfly
Common Redeye (under)

Swallowtails

Lime

Lime butterfly
Lime (upper)
Lime butterfly
Lime (under)

Common Rose

Common Rose butterfly
Common Rose (under and part upper); Note the pink body – different from the black body of the Common Mormon female

Common Mormon mimicry

The Common Mormon female is known to mimic the Crimson Rose (Pachliopta hector) and the Common Rose (Pachliopta aristolochiae) so IDing it is a bit tricky.

Common Mormon

Common Mormon female butterfly
Common Mormon female (upper); Note the wings mimic the Common Rose
Common Mormon female butterfly
Common Mormon female (under and part upper)
Common Mormon female (under) non-mimicking
Common Mormon female (under) non-mimicking
Common Mormon male butterfly
Common Mormon male (under)

Blue Mormon

Blue Mormon butterfly
Blue Mormon (under); Note the pollen on its wings

Tailed Jay

Tailed Jay butterfly
Tailed Jay (upper)
[Addendum 8th December 2021]
Tailed
Tailed Jay (under and part upper)
[Addendum 8th December 2021]

Common Jay

Common Jay butterfly
Common Jay (under)
[Addendum 2nd December 2021]
Common Jay butterfly
Common Jay (upper)
[Addendum 2nd December 2021]

Common Mime

Common Mime butterfly in clytia form
Common Mime (upper) in clytia form
[Addendum: 5th October 2021]
Common Mime (under) in clytia form
[Addendum: 5th October 2021]

Whites and Yellows

Common Grass Yellow

Common Grass Yellow
Common Grass Yellow (under)
Common Grass Yellow butterfly
Common Grass Yellow (upper)

Common Emigrant

Common Emigrant female butterfly
Common Emigrant female (under)
Common Emigrant (female) in yellow variation (under)
Common Emigrant female in yellow variation (under)
[Addendum 26th November 2021]
Common Emigrant butterfly
Common Emigrant
[Addendum 14th December 2021]
Common Emigrant butterfly
Common Emigrant male (under)
Common Emigrant butterfly
Common Emigrant male (under) in yellow variation
[Addendum 8th December 2021]

Mottled Emigrant

Mottled Emigrant female butterfly
Mottled Emigrant female (under)
[Addendum 27th November 2021]

Common Wanderer

Common Wanderer butterfly
Common Wanderer (upper)
Common Wanderer butterfly
Common Wanderer (under)
[Addendum 7th Oct 2021]
Common Wanderer butterfly
Common Wanderer (under and part upper)
[Addendum 9th Oct 2021]

Great Orange Tip

Great Orange Tip butterfly
Great Orange Tip (upper)
Great Orange Tip butterfly
Great Orange Tip (under and part upper)

Psyche

Psyche butterfly
Psyche (under)
[Addendum 12th October 2021]
Psyche butterfly
Psyche (under)
[Addendum 14th December 2021]

Cabbage White

Cabbage White butterfly
Cabbage White (under and part upper)
[Addendum 13th December 2021]
Cabbage White butterfly
Cabbage White (upper)
[Addendum 13th December 2021]

Brush-footed

Blue Tiger

Blue Tiger butterfly
Blue Tiger (under)
Blue Tiger butterfly
Blue Tiger (under)

Plain Tiger

Plain Tiger butterfly
Plain Tiger (upper)
[Addendum 16th November 2021
Plain Tiger butterfly
Plain Tiger (under)
[Addendum 16th November 2021]

Tawny Coster

Tawny Coster butterfly
Tawny Coster (upper)
[Addendum 27th November 2021]

Common Baron

Common Baron butterfly
Common Baron female (upper)

Common/Dingy Bushbrown

Dingy Bushbrown butterfly
Common or Dingy Bushbrown (under)

Common Evening Brown

Common Evening Brown
Common Evening Brown (upper)
[Addendum 19th October 2021]

Chocolate Pansy

Chocolate Pansy butterfly
Chocolate Pansy with damaged wings (upper)
Chocolate Pansy butterfly
Chocolate Pansy (under)
Chocolate Pansy butterfly
Chocolate Pansy (upper)
Chocolate Pansy butterfly
Chocolate Pansy (under) [same specimen as above]
Chocolate Pansy butterfly
Chocolate Pansy (upper)
[Addendum 1st October 2021]

Grey Pansy

Grey Pansy butterfly
Grey Pansy (upper)
[Addendum 8th December 2021]
Grey Pansy butterfly
Grey Pansy (under)
[Addendum 8th December 2021]

Lemon Pansy

Lemon Pansy butterfly
Lemon Pansy (upper)
[Addendum 17th November 2021]

Common Palmfly

Common Palmfly butterfly
Common Palmfly (under)
Common Palmfly butterfly
Common Palmfly (under and part upper)
[Addendum: 5th October 2021]

Tailed Palmfly

Tailed Palmfly butterfly
Tailed Palmfly (under)
[Addendum 30th November 2021]

Great Eggfly

Great Eggfly female buttef
Great Eggfly female (upper)
Great Eggfly female butterfly
Great Eggfly female (upper)
[Addendum 9th Oct 2021]
Great Eggfly male butterfly
Great Eggfly male (upper)
Great Eggfly male butterfly
Great Eggfly male (under)

Blue Oak Leaf

Blue Oak Leaf butterfly
Blue Oak Leaf (under)

Common Indian Crow

Common Indian Crow
Common Indian Crow (under)

Common Castor

Common Castor butterfly
Common Castor (upper)
[Addendum: 5th October 2021]

Commander

Commander butterfly
Commander (upper)
[Addendum 19th November 2021]

Blues

Gram Blue

Gram Blue
Gram Blue (under)
Gram
Gram Blue (part upper)
[Addendum 14th December 2021]

Dark Grass Blue

Dark Grass Blue butterfly
One of the smallest butterflies known – Dark Grass Blue (under)
[Addendum 30th November 2021]
Dark Grass Blue butterfly
Dark Grass Blue (under and part upper)
[Addendum 2nd December 2021]
Dark Grass Blue butterfly
Dark Grass Blue (upper)

Indian Red Pierrot

Indian Red Pierrot butterfly
Indian Red Pierrot (under)
Indian Red Pierrot butterfly
Indian Red Pierrot (upper)

Monkey Puzzle

Monkey puzzle butterfly
Monkey Puzzle with damaged wings (under)

The next time you are outdoors, keep an eye out for these fluttering beauties.

All pictures taken at Whispering Palms Complex, Lokhandwala Township, Kandivali East, in Jul-Sep, by one of us – son Gautam, husband Srivathsa, me.
Addendum pictures – taken post the blog posting date till December 2021

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