Ornithoptera alexandrae (Queen Alexandra’s birdwing)

Ornithoptera alexandrae, or Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, is known to be the biggest butterfly in the world.

The butterfly was discovered when a single female was shot out of the sky by Mr A S Meek in 1906. Meek sent this specimen to Lord Walter Rothschild who described it in 1907, naming it after Queen Alexandra, the wife of the United Kingdom’s current king, Edward VII.

Ornithoptera alexandrae is considered endangered by the IUCN as its habitat is now restricted to a small stretch of coastal rainforest in southeastern Papua New Guinea with an area of about 100 square kilometres. Despite being locally abundant, it is under threat from habitat destruction for palm oil plantations.

Species detail

A single female of this species, held  the Museum, has a 273mm wingspan making it the biggest butterfly specimen in the world.

  • A female Ornithoptera alexandrae
    Biology

    Learn about the reproductive patterns, lifecycle, colouring and size of Ornithoptera alexandrae.

  • A tropical rainforest in Papua New Guinea.
    Conservation

    Discover the conservation status of this species and find out what is being done to ensure its ongoing survival.

Images

A male Ornithoptera alexandrae

A male Ornithoptera alexandrae, Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing the largest known butterfly species in the world.

A female Ornithoptera alexandrae

A female Ornithoptera alexandrae, Queen Alexandra’s Birdwing, larger than the male and drably coloured.