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North Dakota's

Federally Listed Endangered, Threatened, and Candidate Species – 1995

Tawny Crescent Butterfly (Phyciodes batesii)

GIF -- species photo gif--species map

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Status: Former Candidate (Note: As of February 28, 1996, this species is no longer listed as a Candidate species. However, it remains a species of management concern.)

Historical Status:
There is little historical information on the tawny crescent. It appears to have inhabited an area from New England, Quebec and Ontario west to Nebraska and south along the Appalachian Mountains to northern Georgia.

Present Status:
The tawny crescent has disappeared from much of its former range for unknown reasons, although it may still be abundant in parts of Canada. A disjunct population also exists in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Many populations in West Virginia, Virginia and Georgia appear to be extirpated (no longer exist). In North Dakota, it has been found in widely separated localities. It appears to be most common in Ward and Dunn counties where it is found in localized colonies along wooded river valleys that are adjacent to native prairie.

The tawny crescent is often found where woodlands meet native prairie, especially prairie containing bluestem grasses. In North Dakota the preferred habitat is usually found in coulee woodlands.

Life History:
The tawny cresent emerges from its over-winter state in June. Dogbane is a favorite nectar source of the adult butterflies. The pale green eggs are laid in clusters on the underside of leaves where they hatch in 7 to 8 days. The early stages of the purple-brown larvae (caterpillars) build silk nests on the underside of leaves. The larvae feed on the leaves of various types of asters. The larvae are probably readily consumed by birds and small mammals. The larvae over-winter in what is known as the third larval stage. In early spring they change into adult butterflies. The tawny creseent produces only one generation annually.

Aid to identification:
As with other "true" butterflies, the antennae ends of the tawny creseent have a club-like appearance. The antennae of the tawny crescent are entirely black. Wingspan of the tawny crescent ranges from 1 1/4 inches to 1 1/2 inches. The tawny crescent is predominately black and orange above and a yellow or "tawny" appearance below. The tawny crescent is similar in appearance to the pearl crescent and the northern pearl crescent. A good identifying key is that the tawny crescent emerges from its over-winter state in June while the pearl crescent emerges much earlier. By June, specimens of the pearl crescent look ragged compared to the fresh look of the tawny crescent. The northern pearl crescent has an orange stripe on the antennae, unlike the all black antennae of the tawny crescent.

Reasons for decline:
There is little information on the reason for the decline in the tawny crescent. This makes the tawny crescent situation even more precarious.

Research needs to be conducted that identifies the reasons for the decline in tawny crescent populations.

Although the tawny crescent usually remains near woodlands, it is often tound near native prairie inhabited by the Dakota skipper, another buttertly that is a candidate for the endangered species list. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in North Dakota is currently conducting research on the population status of the tawny crescent. The tawny crescent is also known as the "dark crescent" or "Bate's crescent" butterfly by some butterfly experts.

Butterflies of North Dakota by Ronald Royer, 1988.

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