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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Field Crescent - Phyciodes pulchella

Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S5

Agency Status


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General Description
[From Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Glassberg 2001, Guppy and Shepard 2001; Pyle 2002] Forewing 1.6-2.1 cm. Antennae knobs dark brown or black. Upperside orange and black, appearing primarily black above, hindwing postmedian orange band enclosing black dots; underside of forewing yellow-brown with a yellow discal bar and smaller black patches on the inner margin, underside of hindwing yellow-brown with rusty markings and more heavily patterned.

Three or four flights: one flight from late June to early August in the mountains and far north, three to four flights in May to September on the Colorado plains, April-October in lowland California (Scott 1986). One flight early May to late September in the Pacific Northwest (Pyle 2002; James and Nunallee 2011), one flight late May to early August in British Columbia (Guppy and Shepard 2001).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Best told by the upper surface being relatively black in the basal and median regions of the wings, the underside of forewing with a yellow bar at the outer end of the discal cell running perpendicular to leading edge of wing, antennal knobs largely dark brown or black.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
From central Alaska and northern Yukon Territory south to southern California, southern Arizona, and southern New Mexico, east to the western edge of the Great Plains (Scott 1986; Glassberg 2001; Pyle 2002); to at least 3355 m elevation in Colorado (Brown 1957). In Montana, widespread in the western 2/3 of the state (Kohler 1980; Stanford and Opler 1993). Mostly common to abundant (Glassberg 2001).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 66

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density



(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)


Prairie, forested foothills, moist montane meadows, taiga, above treeline in alpine tundra (Scott 1986; Pyle 2002; James and Nunnallee 2011). In Glacier National Park, Montana reported in mesic montane meadows and above treeline in alpine tundra (Debinski 1993).

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of "observations versus availability of habitat".
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were listed as associated with an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not listed as associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignment of common versus occasional association.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species' known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2012.  Mammals of Montana.  Second edition.  Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana.  429 pp.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana's amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
Larval food plants include many species of aster (Aster, Eucephalius, Eurybia, Machaeranthera)(Scott 1986, 1992; Guppy and Shepard 2001; Pyle 2002), but also on Taraxacum in captivity (James and Nunnallee 2011). Adults feed on flower nectar (including Achillea, Allium, Antennaria, Apocynum, Arnica, Aster, Astragalus, Bidens, Ceanothus, Centaurea, Cerastium, Chrysothamnus, Cirsium, Cryptantha, Erigeron, Erioganum, Erysimum, Galium, Grindelia, Helianthus, Lesquerella, Machaeranthera, Potentilla, Prunus, Ranunculus, Rudbeckia, Sedum, Senecio, Solidago, Taraxacum, and Trifolium) as well as dung and mud (Scott 1992; Pyle 2002, James and Nunnallee 2011).

Reproductive Characteristics
Females lay eggs in clusters (to 235 eggs per cluster but usually 30-40 eggs) on the undersides of host plant leaves, sometimes very close to the ground. Eggs hatch in 6-9 days. Larvae gather into groups and cover themselves in communal silk nests. Feeding occurs both diurnally and nocturnally. Larvae reach L3 instars by about 36-40 days post egg hatch, at which stage they diapause. Development to L4 instar began about 26 days after overwintwering completed, L5 in another 11 days, and pupation in 20 days after molting to L5; adults emerge from pupae (eclose) in abut 33-40 days, depending on temperature (Scott 1992; James and Nunnallee 2011). Males patrol for females low to the ground throughout the day in grassy swales, meadows, valley bottoms (Scott 1975b, 1986).

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Citation for data on this website:
Field Crescent — Phyciodes pulchella.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from