Small heath

Small heath

Small heath ©Wendy Carter

Small heath

Scientific name: Coenonympha pamphilus
The Small heath is the smallest of our brown butterflies and has a fluttering flight. It favours heathlands, as its name suggests, as well as other sunny habitats.

Species information


Wingspan: 3.3-3.7cm

Conservation status

Priority Species under the UK Post-2010 Biodiversity Framework.

When to see

April to September


The Small heath is a small, inconspicuous butterfly of heathland, moorland, grassland and coastal habitats. Adults are on the wing from April to September in some places, and appear in two or three broods. They only fly in sunny conditions, always settling close to the ground. Caterpillars feed on a variety of grasses such as fescues and meadow-grasses.

How to identify

The Small heath is a small, light orange butterfly, with one eyespot on each forewing. The underside of its hindwings is browny-grey in colour and it always rests with its wings closed.


Widespread, but not common.

Did you know?

The closely related Large heath is a butterfly of boggy moorland. It has suffered serious declines, so is also a priority species and protected under the Countryside and Wildlife Act, 1981.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work closely with farmers and landowners to ensure that our wildlife is protected and to promote wildlife-friendly practices. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.