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

Nymphalis antiopa
Mourning Cloak

Family: NYMPHALIDAE (Brushfoots)


The Mourning Cloak is a large, dark butterfly, most easily identified by the broad yellow border on the outer edge of its upper wing and the little blue spots running alongside it. The underside is a dark, striated brown with pale yellow borders.

Adult Mourning Cloaks range in size from 2 3/4 - 3 1/2 inches. The caterpillars are black and spiny, with rusty-red spots down their backs. The pupa is gray or purplish-beige with dark markings.

Range and Habitat

This species ranges throughout California and North America, though it is most abundant in the West. The Mourning Cloak can be found in many habitats, from wooded areas to open fields as well as in suburbs and cities.

Natural History

Mourning Cloaks are one of the few butterflies that overwinter as adults. As caterpillars they feed on willows (Salix spp.), poplars (Populus spp.), alders (Alnus spp.), and elms, and live in communal webs until nearly mature. They are about 1 1/2 inches long by the time they strike out on their own to find a pupation site. Adults emerge in mid-summer and fly into the fall. After overwintering, they fly again in early spring. Mourning Cloaks often glide in flight.


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

Hogue, Charles L. (1993). Insects of the Los Angeles Basin. Los Angeles: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County.

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

Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center Website. Butterflies of North America: Mourning Cloak Webpage.

Mourning Cloak, photo by Bob Parks

Mourning Cloak pupa, photo by Bob Parks

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

Field Guide: Butterflies | Field Guide Feedback Form