One in the eye for the attacker

The speckled wood butterfly
The speckled wood butterfly

Any butterfly enthusiast will know, it is not uncommon to find one with a triangular piece missing from a wing.

It may surprise you to learn the angular hole in the wing of this Speckled Wood is a bird beak mark!

Butterflies with eye patterns on their wings are the most likely to carry such tears. Imitation eyes are not just intended to scare predators.

They are also there to fool the bird into biting a non essential part of the butterfly.

Losing a bit of wing won’t stop a butterfly flying off to escape, and it is certainly better than losing your head!

Local butterfly guru Iain Cowe had this to say: “In my own experience butterflies seem to escape a fate worse than death depending on a number of factors. Eye spots are the most important bird deflector out there.

“So Wall Brown and Speckled Wood have the best array of false eyes, and in response to that they are quite often the most cut up by near miss bird attacks.

“I have seen Meadow Pipit and Rock Pipit trying in vain to take out Wall Brown on several occasions on the coast and being quite unsuccessful.”

This all reminds me of my travels in Africa where it 
is not unusual to see antelopes and other prey animals with horrific scars, obviously caused by large predators.

I often wonder what traumatic tales of close encounters and narrow escapes some animals could tell?

It seems the same can be said for many of our local butterflies!

George Hogg. Hogg Estate Services, Wildlife Management