Alabama Butterfly Atlas

Butterfly: Wingspan: 1 - 1¼ inches (2.5 - 3.2 cm). Light gray with black and white line across both wings.  The hindwing has an orange-capped black spot and blue scaling above the tails.  Upper surfaces are gray males and blue-gray in females with an orange-capped black spot above the tail.  Top of head and tip of antennae are orange. Male abdomen is orange; female abdomen is blue-gray. Females tend to be larger.

ID Tip: True gray (under surface)—not gray-brown.  The color is important.

Egg: Light green, laid singly; often on or near flower buds of host.

Caterpillar: Although generally some shade of green, color varies according to host plant hue.

Chrysalis: Dark brown. The over-wintering stage.

Gray Hairstreaks are the most commonly encountered hairstreaks in Alabama and will eventually be documented in every county in the state. In fact, Gray Hairstreaks are so widespread that it is easy to become complacent about their striking beauty.  The crisp clear gray of this butterfly sparkles!

Gray Hairstreaks are consummate habitat generalists, requiring little more than plants and sunlight.  Their caterpillars have adapted to eat from more than 30 plant families, although legumes and mallows are most frequently chosen. As common and widespread as these butterflies are, they are seldom seen in large numbers. Most field trip lists record one or two. 

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 High Count information shows the highest numbers recorded for this species as well as when and where they occurred.

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

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

  • Map Symbol for Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 years
  • Map Symbol for Semi-Recent Sightings Sightings in the past 5 - 10 years
  • Map Symbol for Old Sightings Sightings more than 10 years ago

High count(s):

  • 21 - Cleburne - 8/27/2020
  • 15 - Shelby - 5/12/2000
  • 15 - Jefferson - 5/13/2000
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
3 3 3 2 2 14 6 47 8 28 12 23 25 20 40 47 28 44 38 48 92 68 59 55 71 68 31 31 3 1 3 1 3


Extremely widespread

Host and Nectar Plants

Food plants represent more than 30 plant families, but the Pea family (Fabaceae) may be most common. 

The plants highlighted in blue have been documented as Gray Hairstreak hosts in Alabama, Gerbera Daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) has also been documented.  In addition to these, other plants are almost certainly used.

For more information about these plants, please visit the Alabama Plant Atlas using the links above.

Gray Hairstreak
Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)
© Sara Bright
Curly Dock

Landscaping Ideas

Gray Hairstreaks are among the butterflies that benefit from including Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata) in the landscape.  They nectar from a variety of small flowers including milkweeds (Asclepias spp.), mountain mints (Pycnanthem spp.) and goldenrods (Solidago spp.), all wonderful landscape plants that benefit many butterfly species.