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Brown butterflies: meadow brown, gatekeeper & ringlet

Brown butterflies: meadow brown, gatekeeper & ringlet

These three species are all very common and widespread in Hampshire and the rest of southern UK. The gatekeeper and meadow brown are common throughout the New Forest, but the ringlet is scarcer.

Gatekeeper and meadow brown are open grassland and meadow species while the ringlet prefers woodland edges. They are more common among the fields, hedgerows and woodlands around the edges of the New Forest than in the central areas of heath and wood.

Almost any meadow will hold meadow browns, with gatekeepers along the surrounding hedgerows and ringlets in the adjacent woodland. All three will occur in open grassy areas within woods and all are on the wing in July and early August; the meadow brown can also be seen in June and September. The area around Roydon Woods near Brockenhurst is a good spot for them all.

ID Tip

ID Tip

All the members of the brown family of butterfly have black eye-spots on their wings. Ringlets have chocolate brown upper sides with no orange and the underside is dark with black eye-spots ringed in cream. Gatekeeper and meadow brown are more similar to each other. The best way to tell them apart is to compare the amount of orange and brown on the upper side. The meadow brown has less orange and essentially looks brown with a patch of orange on the wing. Gatekeepers have more orange and the wings look orange with a thick brown border. If you get a very close view you can see that the gatekeeper has two white specks within the black eye-spot, while the meadow brown has only one.

Lead Ranger


'To help ground nesting birds rear their young safely, keep yourself, dogs and ridden horses on the main tracks from the beginning of March to the end of August.'

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