Butterflies of the Pacific Northwest


By Robert Michael Pyle

By Caitlin C. LaBar

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$37.99 CAD



  1. Trade Paperback $29.99 $37.99 CAD
  2. ebook $13.99 $17.99 CAD

This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 3, 2018. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

A must-have for nature lovers in the Pacific Northwest
Butterflies of the Pacific Northwest is an easy-to-use and beautifully illustrated field guide to more than 200 of the region’s most common and distinctive butterflies. Profiles include preferred common name for both genus and species, conservation status, the look and distinguishing traits of each butterfly, habitat and range, and much more. Additional information includes a brief introduction to how butterflies work and details on ecology and conservation.
  • Covers Washington, Oregon, western Idaho, northern California, and British Columbia
  • 17 illustrative plates for comparing and identifying species
  • Nearly 200 range maps
  • Clear color-coded layout
  • Essential reference for nature enthusiasts of all ages and skill levels


In the summer of 1967, I was a 20-year-old undergraduate at the University of Washington. Instead of returning to a summer job as a Denver postman, I remained in Seattle to try to teach a class on the natural history of butterflies. In the half-century since, I have taught hundreds of such classes, but back then the idea was a novel one; no one knew what to make of it. At the first class meeting, only one student showed up: a rising Garfield High School junior named Jonathan P. Pelham. It soon became apparent that Jon knew as much about butterflies as I did, and much more about the local species. I dropped the pretense of the class, got a job with the Sierra Club, and became instant field colleagues with Jon—a relationship we have now enjoyed for 50 years.

Before long, we decided a Washington butterfly book was needed. Starting with Ben Leighton’s 1946 checklist, and with the assistance of all the local collectors, we began the Northwest Lepidoptera Survey and a book project. Jon Shepard, then at the University of California at Berkeley, contributed his large set of records. Grant W. Sharpe, my postgraduate professor in the College of Forest Resources, enabled me to write an interpretive field guide to the state’s butterflies as a master’s thesis. Hazel Wolf and Earl Larrison paved the way for it to be published in Seattle Audubon Society’s Trailside Series as Watching Washington Butterflies (WWB) in 1974.

Jon Pelham became Curator of Lepidoptera at the Burke Museum and proceeded to build a superb reference collection and data base. Not only WWB but also my 1976 doctoral thesis on the ecogeography of Washington butterflies and Washington Butterfly Status Report and Conservation Plan (1989) owed a great deal to Pelham’s data and review. Around 1978, a group of lepidopterists (Jon Pelham, Jon Shepard, John Hinchliff, Dave McCorkle, and I, and later Paul Hammond) came together as the Evergreen Aurelians, with a view toward expanding the Northwest Lepidoptera Survey by assembling records from scores of collectors, and through further field work. The labors of the Evergreen Aurelians came to fruit in the form of atlases of Oregon and Washington butterflies, edited and prepared by master datakeeper and mapmaker John Hinchliff (1994, 1996). These works summarized the distributional knowledge of a century of butterfly study in the Pacific Northwest.

In the succeeding years, Ernst Dornfeld’s classic Butterflies of Oregon (1980) and James R. Christensen’s very useful Field Guide to the Butterflies of the Pacific Northwest (1981) both came into print and went out again, as had WWB. William Neill and Douglas Hepburn’s Butterflies Afield in the Pacific Northwest (1976) helped to fill the gap. Demand for a new regional treatment led to my much-expanded Butterflies of Cascadia (BOC) in 2000. Crispin Guppy and Jon Shepard’s rich and detailed Butterflies of British Columbia (2001), Andrew Warren’s brilliant and extremely thorough Butterflies of Oregon (2005), Jonathan Pelham’s magisterial Catalogue of the Butterflies of the United States and Canada (2008), and David James and David Nunnallee’s thrilling Life Histories of Cascadia Butterflies (2011) all pushed our knowledge of the region’s fauna further.

In recent years, with the rapidly blooming clientele for butterfly watching, gardening, and study, Juree Sondker at Timber Press felt that it was time for a new field guide to succeed Cascadia, and the present book was born. Along with the same stellar cast of collaborators and advisers that had richly informed Cascadia, I recruited one of our most talented and well-equipped young butterfly scientists, Caitlin LaBar, as co-author.

David Nunnallee adapted the Hinchliff dot maps as shaded range maps for Cascadia. Since then, many new distributional records have come in, and the Cascadia maps have been modified to bring our picture of species distribution up to date. WWB (1974) was the first American field guide to use color photographs of butterflies from life, and I was one of the few people photographing butterflies in the region at the time. By the time Idie Ulsh, Dave Nunnallee, and I assembled images for BOC, we found there were many more photographers, and we had a surfeit of fine images to choose among. These were all still color slides, and BOC was one of the last major field guides to use them. Now, since the digital revolution, many people are photographing butterflies, and the choice is bewildering. Caitlin LaBar has wrangled, assembled, and curated the many new digital images submitted, along with some converted originals from BOC. Our scientific advisers have vetted our final selections for species identifications and gender assignments.

We have learned much in the years since BOC was published in 2002. The book you hold in your hands, Butterflies of the Pacific Northwest, follows on from that book, but it is more than a revision. We have attempted to gather the current state of our butterfly understanding in the region into a palatable, friendly, reliable, up-to-date, and highly usable form. It is intended for everyone who wishes to study, watch, collect, photograph, garden, or otherwise enjoy butterflies responsibly. While many questions remain about their exciting biology, I hope you will find what you wish to know about our region’s butterflies in these pages, or at least enough to frame your questions and pursue your own answers in the field and in the literature. With care and attention, you should be able to identify most of the 200+ species of butterflies you might encounter between Canada and California, Idaho and the Pacific, with the tools provided here.

In 1974 (WWB), I wrote, “If the book helps you to see butterflies as necessary elements of an imperiled life matrix—or simply to see butterflies—it will have achieved its purpose.” Now, with the deepened ecological crisis in mind, I can say nothing truer of my hopes for this Timber Press Field Guide, Butterflies of the Pacific Northwest.


  • “Pyle has done it again, authoring a brand-new butterfly book that's just grand. It's easy to use and beautifully illustrated. . . . Butterflies of the Pacific Northwest is a must-have for nature lovers in this region.” —Source

    “In this outstanding guide, over 200 different butterflies found in the Pacific Northwest are pictured and described. All the small details which make a topnotch guide are present:  hardy paper cover, color-coded layout, range maps, comparison plates, crisp color photography and clear and understandable text. It’s the perfect guide for Northwest butterfly enthusiasts young and old.”—National Outdoor Book Awards

On Sale
Apr 3, 2018
Page Count
464 pages
Timber Press

Robert Michael Pyle

Robert Michael Pyle

About the Author

Noted lepidopterist and writer Robert Michael Pyle is the founder of the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation and the founding chairman of the IUCN/SSC’s Lepidoptera Specialist Group. A Yale-trained ecologist and Guggenheim fellow, he is a full-time biologist, teacher, and speaker, and the author of numerous books.

Pacific Northwest native Caitlin C. LaBar was born with a fascination for insects, which has developed into an interest in studying the habitats and life histories of butterflies. A geographer and GIS technician by training and a conservationist by nature, she enjoys photographing and collecting local butterflies and working on various butterfly mapping projects. 

Learn more about this author