Small Heath (Coenonympha pamphilus)

Taken at Seven Barrows, Berks, on June 4th 2012
(1/160th sec at f13. Approx 4x lifesize. © David Hastings)

Taken at Aston Upthorpe Downs, Oxon, on May 26th 2012. Note dark bars on hindwing and small eye spot.
(1/400th sec at f14. Approx 4x lifesize. © David Hastings)


Wing span: 28-34 mm

The Small Heath is one of those butterflies which never rests with its wings open. Instead, it angles its whole body and wings to get maximum benefit from the sun. It never flies more than two or three feet above the ground. Females are larger and paler than males.

It is found throughout the British Isles. There is a distinct subspecies (f. rhoumensis) on the island of Rum.

It occurs on grassland where there are fine grasses, especially in dry well-drained situations where the sward is short and sparse. The largest colonies occur on downland, heathland, and coastal dunes. Smaller populations occur in many other locations including roadside verges, waste ground, woodland rides and glades, moorland, and parkland.

There are two broods per year in most of England and Wales, with peak flight periods in May/June and August. In northern England and Scotland there is only one brood, with adults on the wing in July. The larva is the over-wintering stage.

The main larval foodplants are Bents, Fescues and Meadow-grasses.

Adults feed primarily on Bramble, Buttercups, Devil's-bit Scabious, Fleabane, Greater Stitchwort, Kidney Vetch, Ragwort, Tormentil and Yarrow.

Males set up territories where they can be found perching. They also spend time patrolling in search of a mate. When a male encounters another, the pair flies a few metres up into the air before separating. Virgin females will also fly over vegetation in search of a mate. Mated females avoid male territories.

This species has Near-threatened status on the UK list.


10-Jul-2019 : Aston Upthorpe Downs, Oxon (8)
04-Jul-2019 : Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon (1)
30-Jun-2019 : Silchester Common, Hants (4)
29-Jun-2019 : Aston Rowant NNR, Oxon (23)
28-Jun-2019 : Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon (3)
24-Jun-2019 : Otmoor, Oxon (2)
20-Jun-2019 : Daneway Banks, Gloucs (9)
16-Jun-2019 : Whitecross Green Wood, Oxon (1)
06-Jun-2019 : Stockbridge Down, Hants (10)
03-Jun-2019 : Whitecross Green Wood, Oxon (1)
03-Jun-2019 : Otmoor, Oxon (1)
01-Jun-2019 : Ardley Quarry, Oxon (2)
27-May-2019 : Lardon Chase, Berks (9)
14-May-2019 : Pewsey Downs NNR, Wilts (7+)
12-May-2019 : Pitstone, Bucks (4)

13-Nov-2018 : Extremadura, Spain (1)
07-Aug-2018 : Aston Rowant NNR, Oxon (4)
02-Aug-2018 : Lid's Down, Oxon (5)
02-Aug-2018 : Lardon Chase, Berks (9)
23-Jul-2018 : Vercors Natural Park, France
22-Jul-2018 : Vercors Natural Park, France
21-Jul-2018 : Vercors Natural Park, France
19-Jul-2018 : Vercors Natural Park, France
14-Jul-2018 : Watlington Hill, Oxon (1)
14-Jul-2018 : Aston Rowant NNR, Oxon (10)
12-Jul-2018 : Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon (2)
04-Jul-2018 : Aston Rowant NNR, Oxon (30)
27-Jun-2018 : Arnside Knott, Cumbria (4)
24-Jun-2018 : Irton Pike, Cumbria (1)
24-Jun-2018 : Irton Fell, Cumbria (16)
24-Jun-2018 : Wasdale, Cumbria (1)
21-Jun-2018 : Daneway Banks, Gloucs (4)
15-Jun-2018 : Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon (2)
14-Jun-2018 : Aston Rowant NNR, Oxon (13)
11-Jun-2018 : Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon (3)
03-Jun-2018 : Stockbridge Down, Hants (1)
27-May-2018 : Ardley Quarry, Oxon (1)
26-May-2018 : The Holies, Berks (4)
22-May-2018 : Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon (2)
20-May-2018 : Pewsey Downs NNR, Wilts (40+)
15-May-2018 : Lardon Chase, Berks (2)
09-May-2018 : Rodborough Common, Glos (1)

20-Sep-2017 : Portland Bill, Dorset (2)
19-Sep-2017 : Portland Bill, Dorset (4)
29-Aug-2017 : Lid's Down, Oxon (1)
24-Aug-2017 : Pewsey Downs NNR, Wilts (19+)
17-Aug-2017 : Lardon Chase, Berks (6)
06-Aug-2017 : Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon (1)
23-Jul-2017 : Aston Rowant NNR, Oxon (10+)
08-Jul-2017 : Aston Upthorpe Downs, Oxon (11)
02-Jul-2017 : Silchester Common, Hants (4)
24-Jun-2017 : Aston Rowant NNR, Oxon (15+)
14-Jun-2017 : Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon (1)
14-Jun-2017 : Daneway Banks, Gloucs (6)
11-Jun-2017 : Velebits National Park, Croatia
10-Jun-2017 : Velebits National Park, Croatia
09-Jun-2017 : Paklenica National Park, Croatia
08-Jun-2017 : Paklenica National Park, Croatia
07-Jun-2017 : Gracac, Croatia
06-Jun-2017 : Irinovac, Croatia
03-Jun-2017 : Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon (1)
28-May-2017 : Pewsey Downs NNR, Wilts (26+)
14-May-2017 : Rodborough Common, Glos (12+)
02-May-2017 : Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon (2)

29-Aug-2016 : Aston Rowant NNR, Oxon (8+)
21-Aug-2016 : Pewsey Downs NNR, Wilts (1)
21-Aug-2016 : Hackpen Hill, Oxon (6)
06-Aug-2016 : Greenham Common, Berks (1)
30-Jul-2016 : Aston Rowant NNR, Oxon (9)
09-Jul-2016 : Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon (1)
05-Jul-2016 : Smardale Gill NNR, Cumbria (6+)
03-Jul-2016 : Arnside Knott, Cumbria (1)
28-Jun-2016 : Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon (5)
25-Jun-2016 : Daneway Banks, Gloucs (1)
02-Jun-2016 : Lymington-Keyhaven NR, Hants (1)
29-May-2016 : Pewsey Downs NNR, Wilts (14)
08-May-2016 : Rodborough Common, Glos (1m)

19-Sep-2015 : Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon (4)
29-Aug-2015 : Lardon Chase, Berks (3)
22-Aug-2015 : Aston Rowant NNR, Oxon (1)
16-Aug-2015 : Pewsey Downs NNR, Wilts (3)
09-Aug-2015 : Aston Upthorpe Downs, Oxon (1)
30-Jul-2015 : Aston Rowant NNR, Oxon (1)
23-Jul-2015 : nr Novo Hodzhovo, Bulgaria
21-Jul-2015 : Rupite Hot Springs, Bulgaria
11-Jul-2015 : Aston Upthorpe Downs, Oxon (5)
19-Jun-2015 : Dunkery Hill, Somerset (5+)
18-Jun-2015 : Haddon Hill, Somerset (15+)
16-Jun-2015 : Heddon Valley, Devon (2)
15-Jun-2015 : Collard Hill, Somerset (5)
07-Jun-2015 : Aston Upthorpe Downs, Oxon (16+)
06-Jun-2015 : Dry Sandford Pit, Oxon
17-May-2015 : Stockbridge Down, Hants (1)
16-May-2015 : Ivinghoe Beacon, Bucks (1)
16-May-2015 : Pitstone, Bucks (5)