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Magellan Birdwing (Troides magellanus)

The Magellan Birdwing, a majestic species of the Birdwing butterfly group, captivates enthusiasts and researchers alike with its stunning colors and limited geographical range. Found exclusively in the Philippines and Taiwan, this butterfly showcases nature’s artistry through its vibrant hues and distinct physical characteristics. With two subspecies, Troides magellanus magellanus in the Philippines and Troides magellanus sonani in Taiwan, the Magellan Birdwing presents a fascinating study of nature’s diversity within constrained locales.

Magellan Birdwing

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Papilionidae
  • Genus: Troides
  • Scientific Name: Troides magellanus


This butterfly species thrives in the lush, closed habitats of mossy forests and Submontane Dipterocarp Forests, indicative of its preference for specific ecological niches. The Magellan Birdwing’s life cycle—from egg to caterpillar, pupa, and finally, to an adult butterfly—reveals a compelling narrative of transformation and survival. Its unique diet, mating habits, and flight patterns further contribute to its allure, making it a subject of interest for conservationists and butterfly enthusiasts worldwide.

Description and Identification


The larva stage of the Magellan Birdwing is as remarkable as its adult form, featuring a body adorned with five longitudinal lines of spine-like structures. These caterpillars boast a striking coloration, varying from blackish red to brownish-orange, punctuated by a prominent white band across the middle, making them a sight to behold in their natural habitat.


Transitioning into the pupa stage, the chrysalis mimics the appearance of a dead or dry leaf with its light brown to yellowish beige coloration. This camouflage serves as a defense mechanism, keeping the developing butterfly safe from predators as it hangs from the twigs and branches of its host plant.

Adult Butterfly

Sexual Dimorphism: In the adult stage, the Magellan Birdwing exhibits pronounced sexual dimorphism. Males and females display significant differences in size, color, and wing patterns, reflecting nature’s diversity.

Color and Appearance: With wings unfurled, the male showcases a striking black base on the upper side of its forewings, contrasted by the browner hues of the larger females. The intricate vein patterns differ between the sexes, adding to their distinct appearances. The male’s hindwings are particularly eye-catching with their bright golden yellow coloration, while the female’s wings feature a chain of golden spots.

Average Wingspan: The wingspan of these butterflies is impressive, with males reaching 6-7 inches and females potentially spanning up to 10 inches.

Flight Pattern: Their flight is as remarkable as their appearance, characterized by a slow to average, birdlike pattern that enchants onlookers.


The reproductive cycle begins with the female laying approximately 27 bluish, spherical eggs under the leaves of host plants, ensuring the next generation’s survival.

Quick Facts

DistributionExclusive to parts of the Philippines and Taiwan’s Orchid Island.
HabitatPrefers closed habitats, mossy forests, and Submontane Dipterocarp Forest.
Lifespan of AdultsUnknown
Host PlantsFavors species belonging to the Aristolochia family.
Adult DietPrimarily consists of flower nectar.

How to Identify Magellan Birdwing?

Identifying the Magellan Birdwing requires keen observation. Look for the distinctive golden yellow on the male’s hindwings and the golden spots on the female’s wing-edges. The size difference between the sexes is notable, with females being significantly larger. Pay attention to their unique flight pattern, which resembles that of a bird, and the specific habitats they occupy, such as closed, mossy forests. Their preference for Aristolochia species as host plants is another key identification marker. These characteristics, combined with their limited distribution in the Philippines and Taiwan’s Orchid Island, make the Magellan Birdwing a fascinating subject for butterfly watchers.

Did You Know?

  • Observers often overlook the Magellan Birdwing’s unique bluish-green sheen visible from certain angles.
  • The species’ caterpillar stage is as visually stunning as the adult, featuring a distinctive coloration and spine-like structures.
  • This butterfly’s camouflaged pupa stage is a marvel of natural defense, perfectly mimicking the appearance of a leaf to evade predators.


The Magellan Birdwing is a testament to nature’s capacity for beauty and diversity. From its vibrant colors and distinct sexual dimorphism to its unique life cycle and habitat preferences, this butterfly offers a window into the ecological richness of the Philippines and Taiwan. Protecting its limited habitats is crucial for ensuring the survival of this splendid species, allowing future generations to witness its majesty in the wild. Through increased awareness and conservation efforts, we can continue to marvel at the Magellan Birdwing and other wonders of the natural world.

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Scientific Classification

  • Family: Papilionidae
  • Genus: Troides
  • Scientific Name: Troides magellanus
Published by Poppy Glendening on November 19, 2018.
Last Updated: March 8, 2024. ✅ Verified by: Butterfly Team