A great egret looks for breakfast at Calamvale Creek

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Scientific stuff

Evening brown butterfly
Also known as common evening brown

Species:
Melanitis leda
Subfamily: Satyrinae
Family: Nymphalidae
Order: Lepidoptera

Identification:
Large brown butterfly commonly seen at dusk or in early morning. You are most likely to see it at rest with its wings together roughly forming a triangle that looks like a dead leaf or a piece of slightly crinkled brown paper.

The summer (wet-season) form differs greatly from the winter (dry-season) form.

The summer form is generally paler, and the numerous “eyespots” on the wings are more prominant. The winter form is darker, with the eyespots much tinier, and various dark colours on the underside.

Evening brown butterflies are common along Queensland's east coast, becoming less common in New South Wales, and rare in Sydney. They are also common in some northern parts of the Northern Territory.

We should point out that the black butterfly shown on this page was photographed on the same morning (February 10) as one of the other pale summer forms. It has more features of the winter form (such as dark colour and tiny eyespots), yet was photographed in summer.

Wingspan:
6 to 6.5 centimetres (2-1/2 inches).

Personality:
Changes its appearance throughout the year.

Using our photos

Photos on this website are copyright. If you want to use any, email us at: creeklife@gmail.com

Eve's photos

Eve (a short form of “Evening” brown) is the name our photographer gave to the first evening brown butterfly photo he took for this website.

However, only one photo on this page was taken in the evening (at 5:57 pm).

The photographer said:
“The first evening brown butterfly I photographed at Calamvale Creek landed on some long grass about a metre from me one evening.

“All the other evening browns I have photographed have appeared in the morning.

“I have seen them at all hours of the morning, from around 6 am until almost noon. But they are certainly more common in the early hours.

“The black butterfly on this page was amazing. It brushed my head as it flew past me and landed on a branch right in front of me. The time was 8:44 am.

“From my experience, the evening browns don't flitter and flutter around like many other butterflies. If disturbed, they quickly fly only a few metres and either land in long grasses or fly up to a tree branch. In either case, they often blend well with their surroundings, looking like dead leaves.”

Critters of Calamvale Creek

Eve, the evening brown butterfly

Also known as common evening brown butterfly

Melanitis leda

Good evening everyone. I'm Eve, the evening brown butterfly, from Calamvale Creek in Brisbane, Australia.

evening_brown_butterfly_1 (44K)

I'm most active in the evenings around dusk, and also in the early mornings. I am a strong and swift flyer, although most of the flying you are likely to see is in short bursts.

Where do I live?

evening_brown_butterfly_3 (22K)During the day I usually rest close to the ground in long grasses or on dead leaves.

This makes me hard to see and gives me some protection from predators.

The photo at left is of my cousin Evan. He has just come out for the night.

We like tall grasses, and lay our eggs on the tall blades, which also provide food for our caterpillars when the eggs hatch.

Who are our predators?

eastern_water_skink_predator (23K)Because I rest all day close to the ground, the main predators I have to worry about are ground-prowling animals such as skinks (like the eastern water skink at right), geckos and other lizards, and water dragons.

Some birds and spiders are a problem if I am flying, so I look out for them too.

Our summer and winter forms

evening_brown_butterfly_7 (25K)Evening brown butterflies have fairly distinct differences between our summer and winter forms.

In summer we are pale brown, as in the photo at right. With our wings closed we look like a dried leaf or a slightly crumpled piece of a brown paper bag.

Several black and yellow circles on our wings look like eyespots, and these can confuse predators who startle us and find we are suddenly opening our wings to reveal what looks like a critter with a lot of eyes.

melanitis_leda_4 (28K)The winter form is darker, and the eyespot patterns are tiny. Colours vary greatly, but there is usually a mottled pattern on the underside of the wings.

The black butterfly at left is an unusual negrid form found in summer. You can see the eyespots on the wings are like pin-pricks, and the colour surrounding them is almost non-existent. It's possible she was born and raised in an area of low humidity, but she looks like burned toast.

What do I eat?

I like ripe and rotting fruit. Some farmers regard us as pests, because we also like the large grass of sugarcane and rice plants.

evening_brown_butterfly_5 (31K)

Other things we do

melanitis_leda_6 (22K)After sunset the evening brown males set up territories along the creek edges. They perch with their wings closed on branches, long grasses, tree stumps, or leaves.

Female evening browns stop breeding through winter and take refuge in moist areas along the creek bank.

— Eve, the evening brown butterfly