Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 7/8 - 1 1/8 inches (2.2 - 2.9 cm). There is one narrow tail on the hindwing. The upperside of males is iridescent blue; summer females are uniformly brown, spring females are smaller with much blue at the wing bases. The underside of the hindwing is pale gray with a black bar and distinct black spots as well as three large orange spots at the outer margin near the tail.

ID Tip: The only Blue with tails.  Orange chevrons are located near tails on both upperside and underside wing surfaces.

Egg: Pale green, flattened disc.  Laid singly, often on or near buds of host.

Caterpillar: Caterpillars are variable in color: may be green; green and red; mostly red. There is a dorsal stripe and lateral lines. Body is covered with fine white hairs. The head is black. Caterpillars are the overwintering stage.

Chrysalis: Pellet-shaped. Color varies: may be whitish green with darker head and thorax; dark green; tan.

Throughout most of the state, Eastern Tailed-Blues are familiar sights in fields, pastures, roadsides and other open, sunny areas.  They are the most commonly encountered Blue in Alabama, and the only one with tails. Several generations occur, and populations build as the summer progresses.  ETB flight is weak and fluttery, and these tiny butterflies generally stay close to the ground. They often bask with wings partially open, allowing good looks at dorsal surfaces. Males sometimes congregate in large groups to seek nutrients from damp soil.  Both sexes are attracted to small, low-growing flowers. 

Distribution and Abundance

A dot on the county map indicates that there is at least one documented record of the species within that county. In some cases, a species may be common throughout the county, in others it may be found in only a specific habitat.

The sightings bar graphs depict the timing of flight(s) within each of three geographic regions. Place your cursor on a bar within the graph to see the number of individuals recorded during that period.

The abundance calendar displays the total number of individuals recorded within each week of the month. Both the graphs and the calendar are on based data collection that began in 2000.

The records analyzed here are only a beginning. As more data is collected, these maps and graphs will paint a more accurate picture of distribution and abundance in Alabama. Submit your sightings to albutterflyatlas@gmail.com.

Sightings in the following counties: Autauga, Baldwin, Barbour, Bibb, Blount, Bullock, Butler, Calhoun, Chambers , Cherokee, Chilton, Clay, Cleburne, Colbert, Coosa, Covington, Crenshaw, Cullman, Dallas, DeKalb, Elmore, Etowah, Fayette, Franklin, Greene, Hale, Houston, Jackson, Jefferson, Lamar, Lauderdale, Lawrence, Lee, Limestone, Macon, Madison, Marion, Marshall, Monroe, Perry, Pickens, Pike, Randolph, Shelby, St. Clair, Sumter, Tallapoosa, Tuscaloosa, Walker, Washington, Wilcox, Winston

  • Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Sightings more than 10 years ago
County Distribution Map

View county names by moving the mouse over a county or view a map with county names

Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
2 13 85 156 89 174 102 48 55 64 126 61 73 124 85 84 32 28 55 48 68 47 90 144 58 66 184 186 54 10 4 2 2

Habitat

A wide variety of open, disturbed sites including roadsides, pastures, and even yards.

Host and Nectar Plants

Members of the Pea family (Fabaceae), especially clovers (Trifolium spp.) and vetches (Vicia spp.) are reported in other areas. 

In Alabama, these host plants have been verified: White Clover (Trifolium reptans), Downy Milk Pea (Galactia volubilis).

For more information about the documented host plants and/or nectar plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the following links:

Landscaping Ideas

Many people provide Eastern Tailed-Blues with habitat without ever realizing it.  Less-than-manicured garden edges, alleyways, and natural lawns are often abundant with the small pea-family plants that provide their tiny caterpillars with food. These areas often contain small flowering plants like clover, frogfruit, and violets that provide nectar sources for many small butterflies, including Eastern Tailed-Blues.