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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Common Ringlet - Coenonympha california

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 1.5-1.9 cm. Highly variable. In the Rocky Mountains and Plains yellow-orange to orange-brown dorsally, green-gray to brown to off-white ventrally. Forewing often with a pale-rimmed black eyespot near apex and a straight (not jagged) postmedian line, hindwing eyespots may be prominent or almost absent with a very jagged postmedian line.

One flight; June to July in the north and Rocky Mountains, mid-May to early June in Arizona. Two flights; June to early July and mid-August to mid-September in eastern Canada and New England. Several flights; May to early September in Washington, Oregon, southern Idaho, Nevada, and March to October in California (Scott 1986, Pyle 2002).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Determined by single small black subapical eyespot on forewing surrounded by pale rim (may be absent in some individuals), straight postmedian line on forewing, ocher ground color dorsally. Most other western satyrs are darker colored.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
[Includes several forms some authors consider full species] From northern Alaska and Canada south to Baja California, eastern Arizona, central New Mexico, the northern Great Plains east through southern Canada and northern US to Quebec, Newfoundland, and New England (Scott 1986, Glassberg 2001, Guppy and Shepard 2001, Pyle 2002); statewide in Montana (Kohler 1980, Stanford and Opler 1993). To 3300 m elevation in Colorado (Ferris and Brown 1981). Common to abundant (Glassberg 2001).

Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations: 36

(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)


Sage grasslands, old fields, coastal dunes, marshes, pine forest, montane meadows (Ferris and Brown 1981, Scott 1986, Glassberg 2001, Pyle 2002). In Glacier National Park, reported from xeric and mesic montane meadows (Debinski 1993).

Food Habits
Larval food plants include various grasses and sedges (Agrostis, Bouteloua, Bromus, Carex, Festuca, Poa, Stipa) (Scott 1986, James and Nunnallee 2011). Adults feed on flower nectar, including Achillea, Antennaria, Arnica, Aster, Astragalus, Barbarea, Brodeaia, Ceanothus, Cerastium, Chrysothamnus, Cryptantha, Erigeron, Erioganum, Geranium, Helianthus, Hymenopappus, Lesquerella, Lithophragma, Potentilla, Prunus, Purshia, Ranunculus, Rubus, Sedum, and Senecio (Pyle 2002, Scott 2014).

Reproductive Characteristics
Females lay eggs singly on the undersides of dead grass blades 3-6 cm above ground. Number of eggs per ovariole (1/8 of total) about 20 (Ehrlich and Ehrlich 1978). Depending on temperature, eggs hatch in 6 days, with 8, 11, 12, and 25 days in L1-L4 instars, respectively; pupation occurs about 52-62 days after eggs laid. Larvae do not construct nests (loose silk shelters) at any time except when diapausing in thick grass. Overwintering can occur in any larval instar (L1-L4) (James and Nunnallee 2011). Males patrol throughout the day with characteristic bouncing flight regardless of topography (Scott 1975b, 1986).

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Citation for data on this website:
Common Ringlet — Coenonympha california.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from