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Montana Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Red-disked Alpine - Erebia discoidalis

Potential Species of Concern
Native Species

Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S3S5

Agency Status

External Links

General Description
[From Ferris and Brown 1981; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001] Forewing 2.1-2.5 cm. Wings brownish black, lack eyespots. Forewing with large chestnut red patch both above and below; undersurface of hindwing mottled gray and brown, the outer 1/3 frosted gray.

One flight; mid-May to mid-June in the south, June to mid-July in the Arctic (Scott 1986). April to August but mainly May to early June (Glassberg 2001). Early May to mid-June in the north central states (Masters 1970); May to June in British Columbia (Guppy and Shepard 2001).

Diagnostic Characteristics
Best determined by combination of large chestnut-red patch on both surfaces of forewing, the absence of eyespots, the undersurface of hindwing with the outer 1/3 frosted gray.

Species Range
Montana Range Range Descriptions


Range Comments
Holarctic. In North America south of treeline from Alaska to southern Quebec, south to southern Alberta, northern Montana, northen North Dakota, northern Wisconsin and northern Michigan (Masters 1970; Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Glassberg 2001). In Montana, documented only in Glacier County just east of Glacier National Park (Kohler 1980; Ferris and Brown 1981; Stanford and Opler 1993); possibly inhabits isolated fens similar to habitat used farther east. Rare to locally uncommon (Glassberg 2001).


Taiga, open dry grassland, open woodland, dry and wet meadows, muskeg, fens, open Sphagnum bogs, alpine tundra (Ehrlich 1956; Huber 1965; Masters 1970; Nekola 1998; Opler and Wright 1999; Guppy and Shepard 2001); western populations appear to favor drier open-grassy habitats, eastern populations often in open Sphagnum bogs.

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
Limited information. Larval food plants include several species of Poa, possibly Carex (Scott 1986; Opler and Wright 1999; Acorn and Sheldon 2006). Adults rarely reported feeding on flower nectar, but suburban Taraxacum visited in Alberta (Masters 1970; Acorn 1993).

Reproductive Characteristics
Limited information. Apparently overwinters (hibernates) as L4 larval instar, mature larvae spin thin cocoon before pupating (Scott 1979, 1986; Guppy and Shepard 2001). Males non-territorial, patrol along margins of openings near trees in early morning or late afternoon in search of passing females (Masters 1970; Nekola 1998).

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Citation for data on this website:
Red-disked Alpine — Erebia discoidalis.  Montana Field Guide.  .  Retrieved on , from