Illinois Natural History Survey - University of Illinois

Field Marks of  Illinois Butterflies


Michael Jeffords, Susan Post, and Carolyn Nixon



Field Marks for Identifying

Illinois Butterflies


Like birding, butterfly watching requires that we be able to identify butterflies in the field. Also like birds, butterflies have certain field marks that can be used for identification. For example, a viceroy differs from a monarch by the presence of a black line running diagonally across its hind wing. Learning these characteristic field marks can be a tedious chore, especially on very similar species such as the hairstreaks.


Start your own field guide by coloring the checkered white and the falcate orangetip drawings shown below.   Find a picture in a field guide to copy the colors and markings.  

FalcateOrangetip.png CheckeredWhite.png


To aid you in your studies, general outlines of all the butterfly species that have been found in Illinois can be downloaded here. They are for you to create your own field guide of distinguishing marks that will help in your butterfly identification. Note that the outlines are not to scale, and that mostly the upper surface (left side) and lower surface (right side) of the wings are featured. In a few instances, both male and female wings are shown. Using a copy of the Field Guide to Butterflies of Illinois by John K. Bouseman and James G. Sternburg, find those butterflies that have been discovered in your area, or in an area which you are going to visit.  Copy them from the downloaded page, and color them.  You will have a field guide to your special area of Illinois.


Jotting down characteristics or actually drawing in these field marks will help you remember them and heighten your enjoyment of butterfly viewing.


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