Clouded Magpie Geometridae

Abraxas sylvata (Scopoli, 1763)

Description: Wingspan 38-48mm. Adults resemble a bird dropping when at rest on the foliage of trees. The ground colour is predominantly white with brownish patches scattered across all wings. The size and density of these can vary between individuals. There are smaller areas of pale grey on the fore and hind wings.

Key Identification Features:

Sets:  male upperside

Flight Period: Late May to early August.

Status: Widely distributed but very local and was considered extremely scarce until the late 1990s. It is most frequently encountered in Down, especially Rostrevor Oakwood. This site has a large population which was only discovered in 1998. Other sites in Down include Castlewellan Forest Park and Belvoir Park Forest where it has been seen regularly over the last few years. It distribution elsewhere is apprently very localised. Sites with recent records include Carricknabrattoge near Lisnaskea, Fermanagh, Strabane Glen, Tyrone and Glenarm Forest, Antrim. With the decline of elms caused by Dutch Elm disease, colonies of this species have possibly been lost. Monitoring of the important population at Rostrevor is crucial for its long-term survival in N. Ireland.

Ecology: This distinctive species is associated with woodlands containing elms Ulmus spp. Adults are attracted to light in moderate numbers where locally abundant, elsewhere found usually as single individuals. Their resemblance to a bird dropping means they will often rest on the upper surface of leaves during the day. The larvae can be found from August to October on Wych Ulmus glabra and English elm U. procera. It overwinters as a pupa.

World Distribution: Throughout Europe to Japan.

Bradley & Fletcher number: 1885 Agassiz number: 70.206

Additional information:

UK Moths account


 Thompson, R. S. & Nelson, B., 2003 (Oct 2). [In] The Butterflies and Moths of Northern Ireland