We Have Birds, but Have You Seen Our Butterflies?

By Tom Brown

Checkered White, all photos by Tom Brown

When people discuss the Tucson Audubon’s Paton Center for Hummingbirds, in nearly every case, the topic is hummingbirds. Sometimes it might be a nesting Yellow-billed Cuckoo, or any number of other amazing bird species found there. Currently, 256 species of birds have been reported within the boundaries of the Paton Center. Very rarely within the conversations of a select few visitors, are the incredible numbers of butterflies found in the yard discussed. 

The Richard Grand Memorial Meadow

In the meadow that has been dedicated to the memory of Richard Grand, you will find a seasonal wonder. The meadow has been planted with a riot of colors, flowering plants all specifically selected to attract butterflies! Now, I do not even begin to claim a depth of knowledge about Southeast Arizona’s butterflies, and moths, but my time working at the Paton Center has opened my eyes to what can only be described as a butterfly mecca. The Southeast Arizona Butterfly Association website claims that there are 270 species of butterflies in the region. Through the help of some knowledgeable visitors and our volunteer butterfly expert extraordinaire Pam Maybre-Graham, we were able to identify 56 species of butterflies in the Richard Grand Memorial Meadow in 2023. To be honest with you, I have a feeling that we might have missed a few. There have been days when I pass through the meadow and am blown away at all the different butterflies. Brush-footed, hairstreaks, swallowtails, and skippers are just a very few of the butterfly families that spend time around the Paton Center.




American Snout and Gulf Fritillary

I hope you visit the Paton Center for Hummingbirds this summer and take a few minutes to walk along the meadow and enjoy the wonder of the butterfly scene there. I know that once the flowers are all blooming I will be happy to give visitors a rundown of the current birds being seen, but I am also going to ask them, “Sure, we have birds, but have you seen our butterflies?”

See the list of Paton Center butterflies

Tom Brown is Site Manager of the Paton Center for Hummingbirds.