This page contains amazing Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing butterfly facts for kids (and adults). This animal is part of the Active Wild Online Zoo: information, pictures and videos of all your favorite animals!
Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Butterfly Facts At A Glance
- Scientific name: Ornithoptera alexandrae
- Type of Animal: Insect
- Animal Family: Papilionidae (swallowtail butterfly family)
- Where Found: Forests in the Oro Province of Papua New Guinea
- Wingspan: (Females) up to 28 cm (11 in.), males up to 20 cm (9 in.)
- Weight: 12 g (0.42 oz.),
- Conservation Status: Endangered
- Other interesting Queen Alexandra’s birdwing butterfly facts: The female is bigger than the male, but the male has brighter colors.
Queen Alexandra’s birdwing butterfly Video
Watch the (very short) video below to see the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing butterfly in the wild:
Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Butterfly Facts: Introduction
The Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is famous for being the largest butterfly in the world (we’ll find out just how big it is below). It is found in the tropical rainforests of Papua New Guinea.
The Queen Alexandra’s birdwing was discovered by English naturalist and wildlife collector Albert Stewart Meek in 1906. Working for a rich collector, Meek collected the first specimen by shooting it. It says much about the butterfly’s size that there was anything left to collect!
The butterfly was later named after Edward VII’s wife, Alexandra of Denmark. (Edward VII was King of England at the time of the butterfly’s discovery).
What Does The Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Butterfly Look Like?
- Male Queen Alexandra’s birdwings are smaller than the females, but have much brighter colors. Their wings are a shimmering emerald green-blue color, with black stripes and veins.
- Female Queen Alexandra’s birdwings are larger than the males. Their wings are brown, and marked with rows of white spots and triangles.
(When the male and female of the same species are markedly different to one another, the species is said to be ‘sexually dimorphic’.)
You can see the difference in size and appearance between the male and female in the picture below:
The Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is in the swallowtail family of butterflies, Papilionidae. There are several other species of birdwing butterfly; all are large with brightly-colored males.
Birdwing butterflies get their name from their large, birdlike wings and flying motion.
How Big Is The Largest Butterfly In The World?
The female Queen Alexandra’s birdwing’s wingspan can reach an incredible 28 cm (11 in.), whereas the male’s reaches up to 20 cm (9 in.). Check on a ruler to see how large that is!
Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Facts: Habitat
The Queen Alexandra’s birdwing lives in a small area of lowland tropical rainforest in the Oro Province, south east Papua New Guinea.
The area in which the butterfly is found may be as small as 1,200 sq. km / 463 sq. mi.
The Oro Province in which the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is found is shown in the map below. You can zoom out to see where the island of New Guinea is:
(New Guinea is a large island to the north of Australia. The western half of New Guinea is owned by Indonesia, the eastern half by Papua New Guinea).
Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Diet
The Queen Alexandra’s birdwing uses its long proboscis to feed from flowers. The Queen Alexandra’s birdwing is very selective in its choice of food. It will only eat from 2 or 3 species of the tough-leaved and woody Aristolochia vines.
Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Facts: Life Cycle
Like all butterflies, the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing has a four-stage life cycle (the scientific names for each stage are shown in parentheses).
The males are highly territorial, and will see off any other males who venture into their territory. A male will hover over a female, and shower her with pheromones (special chemicals). If she is receptive to his advances they will mate.
Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Egg (Ovum)
The female Queen Alexandra’s birdwing lays a single large, round, yellow egg. It is fixed onto the underside of a leaf with an orange adhesive substance.
The Queen Alexandra’s birdwing’s eggs are laid on the same species of vine on which the butterfly feeds.
Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Caterpillar (Larva)
The eggs hatch after 11 to 13 days. The Queen Alexandra’s birdwing caterpillar is large and black, with rows of red spikes running along its back. A yellow band runs across its back.
The vines on which the caterpillar feeds are poisonous to vertebrates. The caterpillar isn’t affected by the poison, and retains it in its own body. This makes it poisonous to other animals.
The caterpillar’s bright colors serve as warning coloration – potential predators will see the bright colors and stay away from the caterpillar.
The caterpillar molts (sheds its skin) 6 times as it grows.
Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Chrysalis (Pupa)
After its sixth molt, the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing caterpillar is finally ready to pupate. It attaches itself to a leaf or stem and forms a pale brown chrysalis.
Adult Butterfly (Imago)
The Queen Alexandra’s birdwing emerges in its adult form (imago) after around six weeks. It lives as an adult for around 3 months or more.
Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Predators
This large butterfly doesn’t have many natural predators, although it may be predated by some varieties of spider and birds.
Is The Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing Endangered?
The Queen Alexandra’s birdwing’s conservation status on the IUCN Red List is ‘Endangered’. This is due mainly to habitat loss. More and more of the rainforest in which it lives is being deforested and being turned into oil palm plantations.
Because the Queen Alexandra’s birdwing’s range is so small, it is easily affected by local disturbances; in the 1950’s a large part of its natural habitat was destroyed by a volcano.
Other Birdwing Butterflies
Other birdwing butterflies are also known for their size: the Goliath birdwing is the second-largest butterfly in the world, and the Cairns birdwing is the largest found in Australia.
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