...continued from the Catbird post.
While watching a Gray Catbird on the Creekside Meadows trail in Clear Creek Metro Park, I saw this beautiful butterfly off in the distance. I kept my eye on him hoping he would come in a little closer. He came in a little, but mostly kept his distance, constantly moving from blossom to blossom and seeming wary.
A stunning Pipevine Swallowtail sips nectar from a
Common Milkweed blossom. I've got to plant this native
wildflower in my garden! I saw several species of
butterflies nectaring from its fragrant flowers. I also
saw Ruby-throated Hummingbirds and Hummingbird
Clearwing Moths sipping nectar from it.
To us, the blue and orange against black is extraordinarily beautiful, but to a bird, the color combination says “Look, but don’t eat!” While it's a caterpillar, the Pipevine Swallowtail stores toxins in its body from its pipevine host plant, making him unpalatable to birds. Because of this, birds usually leave him alone. In Ohio, five other butterflies have evolved the same color pattern. By mimicking the color combination of the Pipevine Swallowtail, these other species gain protection from predators.
Common Milkweed is the host plant for Monarchs.
Female Monarchs lay just one egg per plant under
a leaf. Monarch caterpillars ingest and store toxins
from the Common Milkweed plant just as Pipevine
caterpillars do from pipevine plants. Birds soon
learn to leave Monarchs alone too.
Zebra Swallowtails love nectaring on Common Milkweed also. When I was at Strouds Run, a gorgeous Zebra Swallowtail hung around for quite a while, going over each blossom carefully.