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Tuatara: Volume 10, Issue 1, April 1962

Vanessa gonerilla (The Red-Admiral butterfly) — flighting briefly with birds

Vanessa gonerilla (The Red-Admiral butterfly)
flighting briefly with birds

On a variety of occasions I have noticed that this butterfly will break from rest or from an erratic flight to briefly follow a bird; but this seemed a matter of coincidence until recently (21/1/62) when the element of coincidence could be ruled out. Two Redadmirals were flying in an erratic ascending spiral in full sun, rising to a height of fifty or more feet and then dropping rapidly to ascend again, or to rest on a Coprosma hedge. A sparrow flew low above a resting Red-admiral which broke rapidly into flight following about a foot below and several feet behind the sparrow. The two flew out over a valley and the butterfly then returned to the original resting place. The butterfly followed the bird for at least fifty yards. Shortly afterward, a second sparrow crossed the hedge some ten feet away from the butterfly which again broke into flight and followed the sparrow, but a white-eye (Zosterops lateralis) underflew the sparrow in the reverse direction. The butterfly swung around and followed the white-eye well beyond the resting place before returning to alight again at the same resting place. Subsequently, I have repeated observations of this behaviour.