Happy Friday to all of you! We hope you’ve been enjoying our weekly Friday Flyers articles, because it gives us a chance to share our love of insects with you. Today we want to introduce you to one of our favorite Birdwing butterflies, the Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing, or as it is scientifically known, Trogonoptera Brookiana. Birdwing butterflies are part of the Swallowtail family, but most Birdwings have no tails on their wings. The “bird” part of Birdwing refers to the fact that they are mostly treetop flyers, and they have the largest wingspans in the butterfly world. Birdwings are split into several subclassifications with Trogonoptera comprised of a small group of 4 species, with brookiana being the best known. Brookiana was discovered by the famous collector and naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace. Wallace was a contemporary of Charles Darwin, and Wallace is widely credited as giving Darwin the inspiration for his evolution theory. Wallace spent a large part of his life in Southeast Asia, and he discovered and described a huge number of species. In 1855 he described brookiana which he named after James Brooke the Rajah Of Sarawak. Brookiana Birdwing butterflies are distributed throughout Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo, Thailand, and numerous small islands in the area. They are locally common in various areas, and occasionally congregate on river banks and mud puddles to drink mineral rich water. We have personally seen this “puddling” in Malaysia with as many as 100 individuals. We watched them glide a few feet off of the ground with their tongues fully extended as they flew, ready to feed as soon as they landed!!! Brookiana Birdwings have wingspans in the 6 to 7 inch range, and although they are capable of powerful flight, they can often be seen gliding like hawks without flapping their wings. Otherwise they can be seen on nectaring flowers. Their caterpillars eat wild vines in the Aristolochia family, which probably makes them somewhat distasteful to predators.
Birdwing butterflies are highly prized by collectors and photographers alike, because not only are they the largest butterflies in the world, they’re also some of the most colorful and variable. The Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing is among the most striking. In fact, it is the national butterfly of Malaysia!!! The males are jet-black and not the least bit reflective, with large contrasting iridescent green triangular patches, running up the wings in a saw-tooth pattern. The females are larger and brown instead of black, with some of the same green markings highlighted by white streaks. Their black bodies also have bright red markings. The underside also adds blue and white into the pattern of both sexes. The brookiana caterpillars are black with short fleshy horns of yellow and black, and much larger than any American butterfly caterpillar.
There is a high demand for Birdwings for use in artwork as well as for private collections. All Birdwing butterflies are considered to be protected species, and thus require costly special permits for international trade. But the Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing really has no reason to be protected. They are routinely raised on butterfly farms, and there is no shortage. Also, their wide distribution makes them highly stable as a species. So why do they need protection? They don’t!!! But there are some closely related species that are potentially less stable, and they are hard to distinguish from each other. So the worldwide wildlife authorities just lumped them all together for ease of bureaucratic paperwork. In any case, brookiana Birdwing butterflies are usually available to the insect industry, and they are one butterfly that every collection should have.
We have a number of Birdwing butterflies in our Wonders Of Nature department. In the weeks to come, we’ll introduce you to some of the other members of the Birdwing family. Right now we have a stunning pair of Rajah Brooke’s Birdwings individually framed in our hardwood frames with gold-edged mattes. And we are able to offer them at very low prices due to a sizeable purchase that we made earlier in the year. The male pictured is only $95 and the female is only $125!!!
We hope you enjoyed this week’s edition of Friday Flyers. We love sharing our interest in butterflies and insects with you. Please enjoy the photos we have posted with this week’s edition, and be sure to see all the previous pictures in our Friday Flyers album.
Remember to “like” our Wonders Of Nature page, and be sure to pass it along to all your Facebook Friends. We hope you’ll visit our Wonders Of Nature department soon, and we look forward to seeing you.
A male Brookiana Birdwing butterfly from our store. It's only $95 in this large frame!
A male Brookiana Birdwing butterfly sipping water from a riverbank. We took this picture on our research trip to Malaysia.
A female Brookiana Birdwing butterfly from our store. It's only $125 in this large frame!
A female Brookiana Birdwing butterfly. We took this picture on our research trip to Malaysia. Females are rarely seen, so this was a real thrill for us!
The caterpillar of the Brookiana Birdwing butterfly, unknown until recently!
Male Brookiana Birdwing butterflies sipping water from a riverbank.
We took this picture on our research trip to Malaysia. It was one of the most amazing sights we ever witnessed!