Skippers of the Northeast - Identification

Many butterfly enthusiasts are stymied by the skippers. Most skippers, however, are readily identifiable in the field with the aid of close focusing binoculars. This online video guide presents the skippers as you will see them in their natural habitats. The narration describes characteristic features of each skipper that distinguish one species from another. Similar looking skippers as well as species that occur in the same season and/or habitat are placed together to facilitate comparison.

The introductory video provides an overview of skippers and the three groups found in our area:

Skippers - Family Hesperiidae

      Spread-wing Skippers - Subfamily Pyrginae

      Grass Skippers - Subfamily Hesperiinae

      Skipperling - Subfamily Heteropterinae
  • An overview of skippers and the three subfamilies of skippers occurring in Northeastern North America.

  • Silver-spotted Skipper is a common to abundant species often seen at nectar sources while Hoary Edge is an uncommon to rare species with no records in northern states.

  • Common Sootywing is in fact an uncommon species of waste places and cultivated field edges. Hayhurst's Scollopwing and Common Checkered-skipper are both southern species although the checkered-skipper pushes northward in fall and may establish tempoarily breeding populations.

  • Cloudywings and duskywing are superficially similar. Overall, cloudywings are less heavily marked and lack groupings of small white spots. Both Northern Cloudywing and Southern Cloudywing occur in our area.

  • Duskwing identification is a challenge. The five species are covered here are: Juvenal's Duskywing, Horace's Duskywing, Dreamy Duskywing, Sleepy Duskywing, and Wild Indigo Duskywing. Three additional species Mottled, Columbine, and Persius Duskywings are not included in this guide.

  • All 5 of these skippers occur in old field habitats with bluestem grasses in spring. While the Cobweb Skipper, Dusted Skipper, and Indian Skipper, fly early and almost exclusively in old fields, Long Dash and Peck's Skippers are less restricted to old fields and may be encountered in summer.

  • While Least Skipper is associated with wetland edges, European Skipper and Delaware Skipper are field species often seen on the blossoms milkweeds and clovers. The European Skipper, an introduced species, once abundant seems to be in a decline.

  • Traditionally this was a north / south species pair with records for Zabulon Skipper mainly from the southern part of our area and Hobomok Skipper to the north. Recently however, Zabulon Skipper has expanded its range northward and is now established in Massachusetts.

  • Dun Skipper, Little Glassywing, and Northern Broken-Dash are often referred to as the "witches." They are generally small, dark skippers with subtle markings. Crossline Skipper and Tawny-edged Skipper are a look-alike pair with markings somewhat brighter than those of the witches.

  • While all are wetland species, Mulberry Wing and Black Dash often fly together in freshwater wetlands. Broad-winged Skipper is associated with phragmites; Salt Marsh Skipper is a resident of salt or brackish coastal wetlands from Long Island south.

  • These uncommon to rare wetland species are largely southern in distribution although Two-spotted Skipper occurs north to southern Maine. Dion's Skipper is found north to Massachusetts and both Aaron's Skipper and Rare Skipper are found in New Jersey and southward.

  • These two Amblyscirtes skippers fly mainly in the spring. Pepper and Salt Skipper is an uncommon butterfly of inland portions of our region and absent from the coastal plain. Although it is found in a wide range of habitats, Roadside Skipper is best characterized as uncommon or rare and is possibly declining.

  • With primarily southern ranges Sachem, Fiery Skipper, Long-tailed Skipper, Clouded Skipper, and Ocola Skipper often make late season movements northward. Both the abundance and northernmost occurrence vary. The Ocola is the least likely to be seen northward.

  • Leonard's Skipper flies from mid-August through September in dry meadows and other xeric habitats. The holarctic Common Branded Skipper is restricted to Maine in our region where it may be found nectaring in old fields and meadows.

  • The Swarthy Skipper is a plain, nearly unmarked species occuring in southern coastal areas. The Dotted Skipper is a rarely seen species of coastal areas and waste places in the southern parts of our region.

  • The Arctic Skipper is a brightly marked northern species found south to New York in our region.