Ornithoptera Series


About the Butterflies

In my paintings, I use the Birdwing butterflies as a symbol of the many animal and plant species that are disappearing as a result of habitat destruction and other human interventions.

There are 11 species of Birdwing butterflies of the genera Ornithoptera and they are restricted to the New Guinea area. All are rare and some of the subspecies with very restricted distribution, on small islands for example, are extremely vulnerable.
These butterflies are among the largest in the world, the female O. Alexandra having a wingspan of 11 inches.

The birdwings are all believed to breed on the Aristolochia vines on which they are dependant for their survival.

Some of the most rare genera of birdwings sell for over $ 1000 a pair. Some Island colonies have been completely extirpated by unscrupulous collectors paying the islanders a few cents to gather the butterflies. These are then sold for high prices to other collectors. The main threat to these insects, though, is habitat destruction through logging by governments, companies and local people. Of course, Birdwing butterflies are just a few of the thousands of animal and plant species that are threatened with extinction as a result of the felling of the forests.

I try to render the butterflies in full scale and as accurately as possible.

Ornithoptera Goliath

Goliath Birdwing

This is thought to be the second largest butterfly after the Queen Alexandria’s Birdwing. It is found mostly in Papua New Guinea though some sub species are found in northern Irian Jaya and adjacent Islands. It lives in both primary and secondary forest from the lowlands to the highlands. As with all birdwings it breeds on the aristolachia vine, the poisons of which are passed on to the adults or imagos.

  • It was first described in 1888.
  • There are considered to be 8 subspecies.
  • The males have a wingspan of up to 20 cm.
  • The females have a wingspan of up to 22 cm.

It is classified as Vulnerable in the ‘Red Data Book of Threatened Swallowtail Butterflies of the World’.

O. goliath Male & Female
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Acrylic on birch ply & cherry

h 24” w 25.5”
61cm x 65cm