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336

Magellan's Iridescent Birdwing

OLogy Series
animal
card
336

Magellan's Iridescent Birdwing

OLogy Series
animal

The dazzling Magellan's Iridescent Birdwing is found only on Orchid Island, about 60 kilometers off the southeast coast of Taiwan. In the 1960s, much of the island's coastal forests were des- troyed, along with the birthwort and nectar plants that the butterfly needs to survive. At the same time, collectors were catching more Birdwings to keep up with demand. Today, these butterflies are illegal to collect, and only about 2,000 remain.

In the 1990s, people tried to save the Magellan's Iridescent Birdwing by:

moving the butterfly to warmer habitats

planting birthwort vines and sea mango trees

stopping all development on the island

Are you right?

Correct!

These are the butterfly's "host plants." The larvae eat birthwort leaves and the adults eat nectar from sea mango flowers. The planting effort helps to conserve this butterfly and encourages local people on Orchid Island to get involved in conservation.

The adult Magellan's Iridescent Birdwing feeds on liquid nectar from the sea mango tree. Like most butterflies, it gets nectar with:

a long tongue

a straw-like tube

tiny teeth

Are you right?

Correct!

Butterflies suck nectar through a proboscis, a long tube. With its long proboscis, a butterfly can reach nectar deep in flowers.

People in the indigenous Tao tribe believe Magellan's Iridescent Birdwings are the embodiment of evil spirits.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

The larvae and adult butterflies both feed plants that often grow near Tao graveyards. Because of this, the Tao do not approach or capture this butterfly.

This butterfly's yellow hind wing (or lower wing) looks blue-green from certain angles.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

They seem to change color because sunlight diffracts off the wings. The wings are covered with thousands of tiny scales, each in a single color. They overlap like shingles on a roof.

Scientific Name: Troides magellanus sonani
Status: endangered
Range: Orchid Island, Taiwan
Habitat: tropical coastal forests
Host plant: Kankau Birthwort
Appearance: yellow and black wings
Wingspan: 15-20 cm (male), 20-25 cm (female)
Cool Fact: The butterfly's home, Orchid Island, is a volcanic island that formed from magma erupting from the ocean floor.

Image credits: © National Museum of Natural Science Taiwan.