Samll butterfly with lots of brown markings on a pale orange background

Duke of Burgundy. Photo: Adrian Reid

The Duke of Burgundy used to be classed as a Fritillary, and its markings are somewhat similar, but it has now been identified as closer to the ‘Metalmark’ family. It is declining everywhere in the UK. The decline is largely due to habitat loss. This butterfly has very precise requirements, and even a suitable site can become unsuitable as cover increases.

Where to see

Habitat: Found in warm and sheltered spots within limestone/chalk grassland scrub or in more open areas of ancient woodland.

Caterpillar foodplants: Cowslip and Primrose plants of mid to large size, growing among tussocky vegetation.

Best places: The only publicly accessible site is on the slopes of the Cerne Abbas Giant.

Distribution map

Explore the Atlas to see historical distribution trends for this species.

When to see

Mainly May and early June, possibly a little either side.

Sightings by month (last 5 years)*:

Sightings this year*:

Browse the sightings archive.


Size: Small

This is a small and quite dark butterfly, which you might think is a small Fritillary, but it is now classed as a Metalmark. Like all Metalmarks the male Duke of Burgundy has two pairs of legs (like the real Fritillaries) and the female has three. This is the only Metalmark in the UK, but there are more members of the family elsewhere.

The upperwings are dark brown with pale orange patches towards the edges and with orange ovals with a black mark in them round the edges, and there is a brown and white checkered fringe.

The underside of the forewings is similar but lighter, while the hindwings have two bands of white cells, situated one third and two thirds of the way out from the body. These white marks are not found on any of the fritillaries.

The male and female are similar, but the female has much rounder forewings with more orange on them than the male. You are more likely to see the males, which select small bushes or tussocks as ‘perches’ and fiercely defend them all day against rivals through a series of spiraling dog-fights.

Photo gallery

Tip: Click thumbnails to view full-size images.

*Note: The charts shown on this page are drawn only from casual sightings submitted to this website. Records from this website will be added to a lot more data collected throughout the year and used to compile the five-yearly Butterfly Atlases for Dorset and the UK.

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