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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Magdalena Alpine - Erebia magdalena

Native Species

Global Rank: G4G5
State Rank: SU

Agency Status


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General Description
[From Ferris and Borwn 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Guppy and Shepard 2001] Forewing 2.4-2.8 cm. Almost completely black or dark brown on both surfaces (with a green or purple sheen when fresh); sometimes a scattering of white or gray scales near wingtips on undersurface and a faint trace of bands on under hindwings; antennae ringed with gray-white.

One flight; mostly July (Scott 1986). July to early August (Glassberg 2001); July in British Columbia and Alberta (Guppy and Shepard 2001).

Diagnostic Characteristics
All black or dark-brown wing surfaces are distinctive.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
Occurs in isolated populations in the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia and Alberta, southern Montana and adjacent northwestern Wyoming, northeastern Utah, and Colorado to northern New Mexico (Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001; Guppy and Shepard 2001); above treeline to at least 4200 m elevation in Colorado (Brown 1957; Scott and Scott 1978). In Montana prior to 2011, reported only from Carbon County (Kohler 1980; Stanford and Opler 1993), more recently (August 2011) from Park County (FLMNH Lepidipterists' Society database). Rare to uncommon (Glassberg 2001).


Above treeline in alpine rockslides, boulderfields, ridgetops, usually near vegetation (Scott 1986; Guppy and Shepard 2001). Not described for Montana, but probably similar.

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 poorly known but probably include Carex (eaten in captivity), Festuca, Juncus, Luzula and Poa (eaten in captivity) (Scott 1986, 1992, 2006). Adults feed on flower nectar, including Dryas, Erigeron, Haplopappus, and Silene (Scott 2014).

Reproductive Characteristics
Limited information. Females lay eggs singly under the edges of rocks and boulders near probable host plants; eggs infrequently deposited directly on Carex. Larvae eat leaves, build no nests, and hibernate initially as L2 or L3 instars, possibly requiring two overwinterings to pupate into adults (Scott and Scott 1978; Scott 1986, 1992, 2006; Guppy and Shepard 2001). Males patrol throughout the day over rockslides, especially depressions in rockslides (Scott 1975b, 1982, 1986).

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Magdalena Alpine — Erebia magdalena.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from