Photographing Southern Birdwing - Largest butterfly in India | The Top Post !

Photographing Southern Birdwing - Largest butterfly in India

Photographing Southern Birdwing - Largest butterfly in India

Southern Birdwing male nectoring on pagoda flower.

Southern birdwing is the largest butterfly of India. Its botanical name is Troides minos.

It is endemic to western ghat. It is reported from Mumbai to Travancore. However latest occurrence is confined to Konkan to South India. It is found up-to 3000 feet. 

As it is endemic to western ghat, it is easy to ID. Wingspan is about 140 mm to 190 mm. Wings are larger than even some small birds and that's why its named after. Occurs in black and yellow combination. Male and female are distinct.Female has black spots on hind wing.

Males are more frequently spotted than females. Southern birdwing found nectoring on mostly inflorescent plants, such as pagoda flower shown in images. It  also feeds on Mussaenda, Ixora, powder puff etc. According to my field observations, it nectors mostly in the evening and is active till late evening. Normally it gets confined to one small area and visits the same plant again and again.

Its a strong flyer although the flight looks feeble.Male chases other male if seen nearby, and the direction of chase is upwards. Its one of the shy species and flies away from the human presence. 

I have seen it seating on large leaf for some time , may be to take rest, specially after fight with another male. It chooses a large leaf at an height of 25 to 40 feet from the ground.

Photographing Southern birdwing:

Photographing Southern Birdwing is truly patience tasting, because of its habits. Thus its important to apply technical and field tricks simultaneously. 

Its a fast flier, flutters alot and is a shy butterfly, often disturbed by small butterflies. These habits make it difficult to photograph. However, the good thing is individual visits the same plant again and again. Also its large size is beneficial to have good backgrounds. 

Trick here is to operate SLR in manual , burst mode and shoot in RAW format. Shutter speed must be above 1/500s. as I sad, its mostly active in later afternoon / evening. low light might be another problem. Use of flash is must. Set the flash above 1/320 synch speed. Also you may increase the exposure compensation, value dependent on light availability.As this is a large butterfly aperture value of about f4 or f5.6 is enough. This value gives enough sharp images, sufficient depth of field and importantly blurred background

Photographer has take advantage of the habits of this butterfly. That is why activities / behavioral study is of vital importance, specially in wild life photography. Choose a good inflorescence with good background and light conditions. Be ready with all your macro photo gears set as mentioned above. When butterfly starts nectoring, start shooting in burst mode. Dont move till it flies away. Dont change your position while taking photos, otherwise it flies away. Of course you can change the position between two visits. Important thing is, don't run after the individual. 

Photographer can maintain about 5-8 feet distance from the object depending upon the focal length of the lens used. I would suggest 200 mm lens would work best.The photos posted in this article uses 105 macro Nikkor lens attached to D7000 body along with SB-900 flash. Readers are requested to read my post 'photographing butterflies - camera operation' for more information.

Southern Birdwing female

More images for reference at:


  1. good article
    easy to understand and remember

    1. TY Suraj, trying to keep every article as simple as possible, using obvious and natural language. :-)


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