The Richmond Birdwing Butterfly

  • Donald P. A. Sands
  • Tim R. New


In the early 1900s, the Richmond birdwing (at that time referred to widely as ‘the Trojan’ in northern New South Wales, and more formally considered generally to be a variety of ‘Troides priamus’, for example, by Rainbow 1907) was known to have had a patchy distribution from near Grafton and the Clarence River, New South Wales, to Maryborough, Queensland (Illidge 1898; Rainbow 2007; Waterhouse 1932; Common and Waterhouse 1981) (Fig. 2.1), thus incorporating a range far beyond the current distributional extremes for both the butterfly and its major food plant. The historical distribution was likely to have been limited in subtropical Australia, linked with the distribution of its lowland food plant, Pararistolochia praevenosa, with both food plant and butterfly dependent on the restricted climatic envelope suitable for their growth, development and reproduction. By the early 1930s the butterfly had become scarce at the northern and southern parts of the range, prompting Waterhouse (1932) to state: ‘Very few specimens are now to be found at Maryborough and Gympie…, or on the Clarence River…’ (Fig. 2.2). By 1959 the last natural breeding colony near Mary River Heads was cleared of birdwing food plants for urban development (Sands and Scott 2002) and by the mid 1980s, the small birdwing habitat patch with rainforest and food plant vines near Rainbow Beach was observed being destroyed during logging operations. In 1984, a male birdwing was seen near this site by the late Murdoch De Baar and Sands: it was probably the last individual seen in the former northern habitats between Gympie and Maryborough. Birdwing distribution had by then contracted to about two thirds of the original range and the numbers of habitat patches supporting the butterfly were declining rapidly. A recent (2011) report of birdwings seen on Clarence Peak near the southernmost recorded range margin requires confirmation, but some apparently suitable plant communities remain to the east of Grafton that may continue to support the butterfly and its food plant in some remote areas. Detailed surveys are needed to determine whether this is so.


Food Plant Breeding Site Fore Wing Pupal Mass Larval Skin 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Donald P. A. Sands
    • 1
  • Tim R. New
    • 2
  1. 1.Ecosystem SciencesCSIROBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.Department of ZoologyLa Trobe UniversityMelbourneAustralia

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