A Rauparaha’s Copper Butterfly in New Zealand
It was enjoyable making our way through the sand dunes at Muriwai on the North Island of New Zealand. The observation deck looking over the Gannet colony was our destination, but delights awaited us along the way such as this pretty Rauparaha’s Copper Butterfly.
The day was pleasantly warm with a constant onshore breeze, and our position on the cliffs gave us breathtaking views of the Tasman Sea.
In some sheltered spots along the trail, grass and wildflowers had gotten a foothold. These daisies offered up blossoms on which the Rauparaha’s Copper Butterfly could feed.
Rauparaha’s Copper Butterflies are endemic to New Zealand and are found only on the western and northern coast of the North Island and northern coastal areas of the South Island.
Also called Mokarakare Butterflies, they were given the English name Rauparaha
in honour of a rangatira (chief) and war leader Te Rauparaha who used to live along the same coastal region of the North Island.
These butterflies stay close to the ground when in flight and use rapid, jerky movements making it difficult to keep up with them. Over the course of the morning, Bob and I came across a couple of other Rauparaha’s Copper Butterflies, this one here giving us a good view of the wings’ ventral surfaces.
Coastal dunes with mixed vegetation are the preferred habitat of Rauparaha’s Copper Butterflies. At Muriwai, where Pingao, a coastal sedge, and Spinifex, a member of the grass family, have been planted to help stabilize the dunes, the butterflies find it ideal.
Though the butterflies feed on a variety of blossoms, the larvae require Wire Vine (Pohuehue) or Creeping Pohuehue upon which to feed once the eggs hatch into caterpillars, so the population of Rauparaha’s Copper Butterflies will remain in close proximity to those larval food plants.
The soft golden copper gleam of the wings on this Rauparaha’s Copper Butterfly meant that it literally shimmered when set against the waxy green leaves of this shrub.
Here, we see one of the Rauparaha’s Copper Butterflies resting on a blade of grass that floats above a carpet of Creeping Pohuehue, one of the necessary larval food plants. Perhaps the butterfly was getting ready to oviposit some eggs on the host plant.
It is thought that the Rauparaha’s Copper Butterflies begin to cycle through their various lifestages beginning in November, which is when we observed these butterflies at Muriwai. Photographing these beauties provided a delightful interruption on our way to see the Gannets, and they also provided quite the distraction when we were later having our picnic lunch. What a delightful splash of colour.