San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Field Guide

Junonia coenia
Common Buckeye

Family: NYMPHALIDAE (Brushfooted Butterflies)

The species name coenia derives from the Greek kionos, meaning common.


The Common Buckeye is brown with a single large eye spot on each of its upper forewings and two eye spots, one large and one smaller, on its upper hindwings. Each of the upper forewings also has two orange bars on the leading edge. The underside of the hindwing ranges from brown or tan in summer (wet season) to rose red in the fall (dry season). Wing span ranges from 1 5/8 - 2 1/4 inches. Caterpillars are black and spiny.

Range and Habitat

The Common Buckeye can be found throughout California and the southern United States and moves into northern California, northern New Mexico, and Kansas as the season progresses (usually by June). Its preferred habitats are generally open, sunny spaces, including beaches and fields.

Natural History

Females lay eggs singly on the leaves of various hosts, including plants from the plantain family (Plantago spp.), the snapdragon family (Antirrhinum spp.), as well as Seep Spring Mimulus (Mimulus guttatus), Owl's Clover (Orthocarpus purpurascens), Speedwell (Veronica americana) and Mat Grass (Lippia nodiflora).

Caterpillars and adults overwinter only in the South; the Common Buckeye does not migrate in California. Males patrol for females and chase other flying insects. Adults live for about ten days. The Common Buckeye's telltale eyespots can be effective in scaring off predators.

Related or Similar Species

California Ringlet


Glassberg, Jeffrey. (2001). Butterflies Through Binoculars: The West: A Field Guide to the Butterflies of Western North America. New York: Oxford University Press.

Stewart, Bob. (1998). Common Butterflies of California. Patagonia, Arizona: West Coast Lady Press.

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center. Butterflies of North America: Common Buckeye Webpage.

Common Buckeye, photo by Bob Parks

Did you know...
These little butterflies defend their territory against all comers. Sometimes that territory is a stretch of hiking trail. It doesn't matter how big or scary you are!

Text by Liza Blue in consultation with Christian Manion.
Photos by Bob Parks.

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