Mourning Cloak: Harbinger of Spring

Subject: Butterfly
Location: Jefferson County, Colorado
April 26, 2016 7:04 am
On 26/April/2016 we were within the boundaries of Chatfield State Park, Jefferson County, Colorado and observed a brown butterfly with white edged wings several times in at least three locations in the Park. It was seldom still and we managed only one somewhat decent image of the butterfly (attached). We observed it from about 1:00 to 3:00 pm in grassy areas as well as near a stream. Unfortunately we did not get a clear image of it with its wings opened. Any help with identification would be appreciated. Location: Latitude: 39°32’45.92″N / Longitude: 105° 5’5.21″W
Signature: Ronal Kerbo

Mourning Cloak
Mourning Cloak

Dear Ronal,
Judging by the bedraggled appearance of its wings, this Mourning Cloak has just awakened from a long winter’s nap.  Mourning Cloaks, along with several other species of butterflies in the Brush-Footed Butterfly family Nymphalidae, hibernate, often in hollow trees and other sheltered nooks and crannies. They can sometimes be seen flying about on sunny days while there is still snow on the ground.  The female will lay her eggs on the budding leaves of willow, elm and a few other species of trees, and the caterpillars will grow quickly while feeding on the new leaves.  There is still a hint of beauty visible on your individuals wings.  The ventral surface of the wings, which is visible when the butterfly rests with its wings folded over its back, are mottled in color to help the Mourning Cloak blend in with bark and leaves, but the dorsal surface on a newly eclosed individual are a velvety warm black in color.  There is a scalloped cream colored edge on all the wings and a row of brilliant blue spots traverses the  length of the wings as well.

Dear Daniel,
Thank you for the prompt reply with the identification of our butterfly. We were quite surprised to see your message so soon after sending along our inquiry. As it turns out I now know we had photographed a “Mourning Cloak” within the Butterfly Pavilion set up on the grounds of the Denver Botanic Gardens at Chatfield here in the Denver Colorado metro area. I should have done more research on my on and not bothered you and others at the whatsthatbug web site. We very much appreciate your response and it is good to know we have now photographed a Mourning Cloak in the wild.
Thanks again,

It was no trouble at all Ronal.  We love posting images of Mourning Cloaks.

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