Rare butterflies sighted, snapped in Nilgiris

Members of Tamil Nadu Butterfly Society. (Top) Nilgiri Tit and Striated Five-ring butterfly— Photos: Special Arrangement  

The Nilgiri tit butterfly is rarely spotted and even less photographed. But members of the Tamil Nadu Butterfly Society (TNBS) have done both. They have photographed it at Kallar in The Nilgiris. “This is the second time in the last 100 years that this species has been photographed in Tamil Nadu. But you can see them in plenty in Sri Lanka,” says A. Pavendhan, president of TNBS.

The Jewel Four-ring is another rare sighting. “It is also called the Sinhalese Five-ring. We recorded it at Megamalai Wildlife Sanctuary in Theni district and it is the first time it has been photographed in South India. We checked with the Bombay Natural History Society too,” says Paavendhan.

Then there is the Evershed’s Ace butterfly, often seen at high altitudes that fluttered into view at Virudhunagar district. The TNBS has recorded 271 species of butterflies in Tamil Nadu after meticulous data collection covering three years in several habitats. They also took help from the Tamil Nadu Forest Department to explore the forests. 

There is an online forum called Tamil Nadu Butterflies on Facebook. Members are encouraged to upload their findings with photographs of the species as proof. “We have covered all the districts of Tamil Nadu. Initially, the bulk of data covered Coimbatore, Chennai, Madurai, Tirupur, Virudhunagar, and The Nilgiris.

Through Facebook, we now have postings and representations from over 23 districts including Sivagangai, Kanyakumari, and Salem. While the core team has 25 to 30 people, there has been an active participation from 650 members from other districts,” explains Paavendhan. Photographs of the 265 species are available on Facebook.  While pictorial proofs of regular sightings were accepted, sighting of new species (new addition to the checklist) was validated by making a second visit to the place. Help was taken from pan-India forums and experts in the field of Lepidoptera to identify species. 

Member Manoj Sedhumadhavan based in Wellington says the check-list is thorough and will be of great help to beginners, students and the scientific community. Another member H. Theivaprakasham talks about butterfly migration. “In September every year, butterflies move from the Eastern Ghats from places likes Yercaud and Madurai to the Western Ghats to Valparai and Ooty. Our objective is to make people conserve nature, plant more trees and invite more butterflies.” 

A target list of 323 species was arrived at after going through the check lists of the neighbouring states like Kerala and the ones available for the Western Ghats.

“We have covered 271 species. We are searching for the remaining 52 species in the southern part of Tamil Nadu and high elevation areas of Western Ghats. We have conducted awareness programmes in education institutions in Coonoor, Coimbatore and will shortly visit schools in Rajapalayam,” says Pavendhan. 

Threat to habitat

Enough damage has been done to their habitat in residential settlements. A construction of an additional 50 ft or a 60 ft road on the National Highway does not affect them much. Most butterflies don't fly fast, they just flutter. But highways pose a danger during the butterfly migration which happens in April and May and September. There are road kills during these months, especially of species like Dark Blue Tiger and Common Crow.

In the months of June, there is an erratic local movement of emigrant butterflies. This species also gets affected by traffic.

Other rare finds

Silver-streaked Acacia Blue (Zinaspa todara) at Kallar

Palani Bushbrown (Heteropsis davisoni) from Theni.

Tamil Lacewing, golden Flitter and Small Leopard from Tirunelveli

What can be done

More parks can be set up in Butterfly hotspots (Kallar, Kovai Kutralam, Anaikatti, Coonoor, Srivilliputhur GWLS, Sirumalai, Saptur & Alagar Malai.

If you spot a butterfly in your neighbourhood, email details to or visit the Tamil Nadu Butterflies page on Facebook at and post the info

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 10:04:22 PM |

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