This Rajah Brooke’s Birdwing (Trogonoptera brookiana) was photographed at Brunei’s Ulu Temburong National Park on 1st October 2013 by KC Tsang.
The series of images show the beautiful swallowtail butterfly with its elongated, velvety black forewings decorated with metallic green triangles, gingerly approach its nectaring plant for a sip of the flower nectar. Note the long, slender proboscis that uncoils as the butterfly approaches the flower.
The nectaring plant as shown in the images is possibly Mussaenda philippica ‘Aurorae’ – as seen from the single, large, ivory-coloured sepal and tubular flowers topped with golden-yellow petals. According to Khew Sin Khoon of Butterfly Circle LINK, its caterpillar host plant is Aristolochia foveolata.
Sin Khoon agrees with KC that the subspecies that occurs in Brunei and East Malaysia is brookiana. So the full name would be T. brookiana brookiana (Wallace 1855). It was first discovered by AR Wallace and named in honour of Sir James Brooke who was appointed the Rajah of Sarawak in 1841. He was also often referred to as the “White Rajah”. Another subspecies is also found in Borneo in East Kalimantan, and this is T. brookiana haugumei (Parrott, 1991)
The two subspecies found in West Malaysia, are T. brookiana albescens (Rothschild, 1895) which is the common one, whilst another subspecies, T. brookiana mollumar (D’Abrera, Parker & Doggett 1976) flies in south-eastern Johor.
KC Tsang (images) & Khew Sin Khoon (opinion)
Bird Ecology Study Group Nectaring plants of butterflies
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