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Tiger Swallowtail - Papilio rutulus - female

Tiger Swallowtail - Papilio rutulus - Female
NNW of Pagosa Springs, Hindsdale County, Colorado, USA
June 17, 2007
Size: Large
This looks just like the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail found at but it was definitely found out west. Would the flash of blue indicate this one is a female?

K'aalógii is the Navajo word for butterfly.

Here's an interesting insight: k'aalógii was, traditionally, one of the first Navajo constellations, carried and set into the sky before Coyote scattered the rest of the stars by flinging them upwards.


They are a lot alike
I thought it might be a blooper. Anyway, the differences are subtle, but they are there. Yours and the California one definitely look different from the eastern one to me, but the differences are indeed subtle. The wings are bigger (compared to the body) and somewhat broader, slightly more rounded on the eastern. The dark stripes tend to be slightly narrower and placed slightly differently on the eastern, and so on. On P. rutulus (and canadensis), but not so much on P. glaucus, there is usually a characteristic bend in the inner edge of the dark margin on the front wings. Also, on the females (which are what in the photos here), notice the blue on the front wing of the Eastern (common on Easterns, not on Westerns). There is a spot on the hind wing (upper/outer angle) that is usually orange on Easterns, but yellow on Westerns (hidden in these pictures), and so on. The undersides show more concrete differences. Also, Easterns tend to be considerably larger. However, no matter how you look at them, they are very similar, and can be confusing (and not two look exactly the same - there is plenty of individual variation). I learned them first as a boy in Eastern Colorado, and I could tell them apart in flight (usually), but that was with lots of practice (they behave a bit differently too, which helps). If you want to see more related types, look at the Mexican, Canadian, and Appalachian Tigers. They are all very very close, especially to P. rutulus, in appearance. Many photos get mislabeled and show up with the wrong names on the internet, and even in books. Particularly true when the photos are from areas where two or more come together.

This is one of my favorite groups of butterflies, in fact one of my favorite groups of anything!


I moved it.
Thanks again, Dave. I'll try for some more photos, since they're currently all over the place. I won't be able to compare mine with any eastern specimens, though, since I'm out of their (eastern) range here in SW Colorado.

your welcome
You do have Two-tailed and Pale Tigers, but they aren't nearly so confusingly like Westerns. You should see some of those playing alongside your Westerns. However, they occasionally (actually very rarely) produce hybrids that can play mind games with you.

Also, at the risk of this getting too long-winded here. I didn't pay close enough attention to the thumbnails you attached. The top one, from Massachusetts is actually not P. glaucus, but rather P. canadensis (I assumed it was P. rutulus, without looking closely), which looks almost exactly like P. rutulus. It has the orange spot at the outer/upper corner of the hind wing, but that is hidden in the photo. The underside also has much more orange than on P. rutulus, which most often has almost none. The two are very similar, but P. canadensis runs a bit smaller on average, and is mostly in Canada (they blend a bit near the border in British Columbia and Washington). P. canadensis has also been lumped into P. glaucus by some authors, adding to the confusion, and it is confused with P. appalachiensis, which takes over southward from it in the eastern upplands (but which is larger). It's all very fun and fascinating, or frustrating, depending upon how you look at it, especially if you live someplace like New England, or southern British Columbia. I also wonder about what happens where (if) P. rutulus meets the Mexican Tigers. And so on - - -

Western, not Eastern
This is indeed a female, but it is Papilio rutulus, not P. glaucus. P. glaucus is found in Colorado, but only east from the mountains, not on the Western Slope. The shape of the wings and the markings are typical of P. rutulus on this one.

It is definitely in the range
of the Western Tiger Swallowtail P. rutulus (SW Colorado), and not in the range of P. glaucus, but I'm not sure what you mean about the shape of the wings. To me it looks about identical (except for the color) to this one and this one which were found in Massachusetts and NC, and are Eastern Tiger Swallowtails (P. glaucus). Then again, it also looks like this California specimen Unless it's way out of its range, I'm sure you're right, but I'll be danged if I can see the difference. I'm thinking that was a mistake made in tagging the image, because we had pretty much decided it was the western species based on its location. Thanks for catching the mistake.

Yes, the blue
is a good indicator or a female. Her forewings are slightly more rounded than the male, but the best indicator is the shape of the "plump" and "full" abdomen. Many females will have much more blue. Pic is slightly overexposed or she is a paler specimen. Nice picture. Farther west, is the Papilio rutulus, Western Tiger Swallowtail. Check out its range.

Thanks, Scott.
I thought it should be more yellow, and tried adjusting the colors, but it wasn't there. This is a pale specimen. Here is the range (it's definitely within)

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