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Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing (Trogonoptera brookiana)

The Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing is a magnificent species of butterfly, renowned for its rarity and stunning appearance. Native to the lush rainforests of Southeast Asia, this butterfly is not only the national symbol of Malaysia but also a subject of international conservation efforts due to its limited and regulated export. With its vibrant colors and dynamic flight, the Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing captivates the hearts of both researchers and butterfly enthusiasts alike.

Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing

Scientific Classification

  • Family: Papilionidae
  • Genus: Trogonoptera
  • Scientific Name: Trogonoptera brookiana


This species belongs to the group of V-winged butterflies, with over 11 subspecies, each characterized by slight variations that contribute to their unique beauty. Inhabiting the sandy banks of water bodies within tropical rainforests, their lifecycle from caterpillar to majestic adult is a fascinating journey of transformation. Here, we delve deeper into the world of these extraordinary arthropods, exploring their lifecycle stages, identifying features, and remarkable behaviors.

Description and Identification


The journey of the Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing begins with its caterpillar stage. The mature larvae exhibit a captivating blend of brown and green hues, adorned with paler brown spikes. Their bodies are marked by buff and grey tubercles, adding to their distinct appearance. Upon hatching, these larvae waste no time, rapidly consuming the leaves of their host plants in preparation for the next stage of their life cycle.


Transitioning into the pupa stage, the chrysalis showcases an apple green color with striking violet markings. In this transformative phase, the pupa remains securely attached to a vine stem, suspended vertically by a silk girdle that aids in its metamorphosis.

Adult Butterfly

Sexual Dimorphism: A notable feature of the Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing is the distinct sexual dimorphism observed between males and females. This difference is primarily visible in their coloration and wing patterns.

Color and Appearance: Males boast elongated primary wings with leaf-like green patterns over a black base, while females display a similar pattern with a brown base and dull yellow markings. The intricate designs on the wings are a spectacle when they are spread open, revealing the detailed artistry of nature.

Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing ButterflyRajah Brooke’s Birdwing ButterfliesAverage Wingspan: The Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing has an impressive wingspan ranging from 15 to 17 cm (5.9 to 6.7 inches), making it one of the larger butterfly species in its habitat.

Flight Pattern: Characterized by very fast and powerful flaps, the flight of the Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing is as erratic as it is graceful, a testament to its agility and strength.


The reproductive cycle of these butterflies includes the laying of up to 50 tiny, round eggs, varying from white to reddish in color, on the leaves of host plants.

Quick Facts

DistributionThai-Malay Peninsula, Borneo, Natuna, Sumatra, and adjacent small islands.
HabitatSandy banks of rivers and hot springs in tropical rainforests.
Lifespan of AdultsApproximately seven days.
Host PlantsPrimarily Bauhinia species.
Adult DietFlower nectar.

How to Identify Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing?

Identifying the Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing involves looking for its distinctive wing patterns and colors. Males are recognized by their vibrant green and black wing coloration, whereas females exhibit a more subdued palette of brown and dull yellow. The butterfly’s large size and unique V-shaped wing structure further aid in its identification. Observing their flight pattern can also provide clues, as their powerful and erratic flapping is quite distinctive. Additionally, their presence around sandy riverbanks and hot springs within tropical forests is a good indicator of their habitat. Understanding these key characteristics will enable enthusiasts and researchers alike to identify the Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing with confidence.

Did You Know?

  • The Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing was named in honor of the White Rajah of Sarawak, Captain Brooke, a 19th-century English ruler in Borneo.
  • These butterflies exhibit a unique behavior of gathering in groups, sometimes up to 80 individuals, to drink mineralized water from puddles. This activity is crucial for absorbing sodium and potassium, essential minerals for triggering their adult behavior.
  • Another intriguing aspect of their behavior is their mating ritual, which involves elaborate dances and displays to attract mates, showcasing the complex social interactions within the species.


The Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing butterfly is not just a symbol of natural beauty but also a fascinating subject for scientific study. Its lifecycle, from the camouflaged caterpillar to the splendid adult butterfly, encapsulates the wonder of metamorphosis. Through continued research and conservation efforts, the Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing will remain a vibrant jewel in the crown of the natural world.

Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing Pictures

Female Rajah Brooke's Birdwing
Male Rajah Brooke's Birdwing
Rajah Brooke's Birdwing Images

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Scientific Classification

  • Family: Papilionidae
  • Genus: Trogonoptera
  • Scientific Name: Trogonoptera brookiana
Published by Poppy Glendening on November 3, 2018.
Last Updated: March 1, 2024. ✅ Verified by: Butterfly Team