Gray Cracker (Hamadyras februa)
The Gray Cracker is the most common and widespread of the Cracker or Calico butterflies that occur in Costa Rica. These are highly camouflaged butterflies of forested habitats, the national parks such as Carara, Manuel Antonio, and Corcovado being good places to see this interesting looking species. Don’t expect to see them flying around though, as they prefer to rest on tree trunks to take advantage of their camouflaged markings.
There are several species of Hamadryas butterflies in Costa Rica, some of which have gray or brown, intricately mottled wings like those of the Gray Cracker. Crackers such as the Gray can be recognized as belonging to this group by their mottled light gray or light brown coloration that strongly resembles the coloration of a tree trunk. The Gray Cracker can be separated from similar species by noting that it is more gray than brown, and, with a very close look, noting red crescent-shaped marks in the eye spots on the margins of its wings.
Behavior in Costa Rica
Like other Hamadryas species, the Gray Cracker prefers to remain hidden in plain sight by resting with its wings spread open on the trunks of light-colored trees, especially palms. Like so, they can be very hard to see; the objective for the Gray Cracker since many birds would love to eat these non-toxic, tasty butterflies. Fortunately for the Gray Cracker, it doesn’t need to fly around so much because it feeds on rotting fruit instead of on nectar. Although birds might call it a cracker in reference to a tasty snack, for people, it gets its name from its habit of making a loud cracking noise with its wings in defense of its territory.
Habitat and distribution in Costa Rica
In Costa Rica, the Gray Cracker is a common butterfly of lowland forests and wooded habitats throughout the country. It frequents both dry and humid forests and is commonly found resting on palms and tree trunks in hotel gardens.