Guardian Nature School Team Contact Blog Project Noah Facebook Project Noah Twitter

A global community of nature enthusiasts
photographing and learning about wildlife

Join Project Noah!
nature school apple icon

Project Noah Nature School visit nature school

Monarch butterfly

Danaus plexippus


The monarch butterfly or simply monarch (Danaus plexippus) is a milkweed butterfly (subfamily Danainae) in the family Nymphalidae. Other common names, depending on region, include milkweed, common tiger, wanderer, and black veined brown. It may be the most familiar North American butterfly, and is considered an iconic pollinator species. Its wings feature an easily recognizable black, orange, and white pattern, with a wingspan of 8.9–10.2 cm (3+1⁄2–4 in) A Müllerian mimic, the viceroy butterfly, is similar in color and pattern, but is markedly smaller and has an extra black stripe across each hindwing. The eastern North American monarch population is notable for its annual southward late-summer/autumn migration from the northern and central United States and southern Canada to Florida and Mexico. During the fall migration, monarchs cover thousands of miles, with a corresponding multi-generational return north. The western North American population of monarchs west of the Rocky Mountains often migrates to sites in southern California but has been found in overwintering Mexican sites as well. The monarch's wingspan ranges from 8.9 to 10.2 centimetres (3.5–4.0 in). The upper sides of the wings are tawny orange, the veins and margins are black, and there are two series of small white spots in the margins. Monarch forewings also have a few orange spots near their tips. Wing undersides are similar, but the tips of forewings and hindwings are yellow brown instead of tawny orange and the white spots are larger. The shape and color of the wings change at the beginning of the migration and appear redder and more elongated than later migrants. Wings size and shape differ between migratory and non-migratory monarchs. Monarchs from eastern North America have larger and more angular forewings than those in the western population. Monarchs are commonly and easily mistaken for the similar viceroy butterfly – the two species are Müllerian mimics. Monarch flight has been described as "slow and sailing", with a flight speed estimated at approximately 9 km/h or 5.5 mph. For comparison, the average human jogs at a rate of 9.7–12.9 km/h (6–8 mph). Adults are sexually dimorphic. Males are slightly larger than females and have a black patch or spot of androconial scales on each hindwing (in some butterflies, these patches disperse pheromones, but are not known to do so in monarchs). The male's black wing veins are lighter and narrower than those of females.


West Ridge Nature Park in the heart of Chicago's northside, about a mile west of Lake Michigan. Large pond, surrounded by restored prairie/shrubland and forest, adjacent to a large, old cemetery.

Species ID Suggestions

Sign in to suggest organism ID


Rithmini Dinhara
Rithmini Dinhara 2 weeks ago

I quench my thirst to go out by looking at all butterfly spottings posted here from all over the world :D

Rithmini Dinhara
Rithmini Dinhara 2 weeks ago

Oh... Then your home area must have a rich biodiversity.
Well, I'm still 16 so I need permission from my parents for literally everything I do...

jazz.mann 2 weeks ago

Hi RIthmini, I used to travel, but all these recent spottings are near home. I live in the Chicago suburbs and my father is buried in the cemetary next to this park. At least I am old enough (57) that I don't need permission to go where I want and I have a car.

Rithmini Dinhara
Rithmini Dinhara 2 weeks ago you really get to travel a lot... I almost envy you. I'm stuck inside my house 24/7 lol
my parents are too scared to take me out and the exams are coming too :(

Spotted by

Chicago, Illinois, United States

Spotted on Sep 4, 2021
Submitted on Sep 26, 2021

Noah Guardians
Noah Sponsors
join Project Noah Team

Join the Project Noah Team