Fair Isle Bird Observatory & Guesthouse


Although there are no butterflies permanently established on Fair Isle, immigrants do occur annually. In most years only a handful of butterflies are seen on the island, but in some years large invasions have occurred; those in 1980, 1996, 2002 and 2003 were particularly stunning.

Eleven species of butterfly have been recorded on Fair Isle, but only two have bred.

Regular migrants

The following are seen annually or near annually in varying numbers:

Small Tortoiseshell Aglais urticae

Peacock Inachis io

Red Admiral Vanessa atalanta (has bred)

Painted Lady Vanessa cardui


The following have only been recorded on a few occasions:

Large White Pieris brassicae (formerly near annual and has bred)

Small White Pieris rapae June 1978, August 1989 and July 1992

Small Heath Coenonympha pamphilus June 1980

Clouded Yellow Colias croceus July/August 1980, May 1992 and August 1992

Meadow Brown Maniola jurtina June 1980

Swallowtail Papilio machaon Upper Leogh September 1995

Common Blue Polyommatus icarus 1990 (also blue sp. August 1980).

[Monarch – possible 1 September 2002]

Dragonflies (Odonata)

Two species and two other taxa have been recorded as vagrants:

Common Hawker Aeshna juncea 24 July 1955

Four-spotted Chaser Libellula quadrimaculata July 1958 & probable 6 September 2004

Darter sp. Sympetrum sp. August 2001

Hawker sp. 13 September 1995 (most probably Migrant Emperor Hemianax ephipigger)