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I spotted this butterfly feeding on some lantana in Fort Worth, Texas. It looks exactly like a coral hairstreak, but it has these two tails (?) on its hind wing, whereas I thought coral hairstreaks had none. Is it just a slightly unusual specimen, or is it some other butterfly?

Thanks to @tyersome for the suggestion to estimate the size. I'm bad with estimating sizes, but it was a small butterfy, with its height (from the flower to the tip of its wing) perhaps more than my thumbnail but less than the diametre of a US quarter—maybe 2 cm.

maybe coral hairstreak feeding on lantana

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    $\begingroup$ Welcome to Biology.SE. Your question looks good, but it may be helpful to add an estimate of the butterflies size. Not an expert on this, but to me the 'coral band' looks very reduced compared to a typical Coral streak — combined with the tails I'd guess this is a different species. $\endgroup$
    – tyersome
    Nov 7, 2021 at 3:07
  • $\begingroup$ @tyersome, thanks! I have estimated the size (perhaps 2 cm high). $\endgroup$
    – LSpice
    Nov 7, 2021 at 4:08
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    $\begingroup$ Oh my goodness, you just posted a picture of my favorite butterfly! It's not a coral hairstreak. $\endgroup$ Nov 7, 2021 at 18:37

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It's a Gray Hairstreak Butterfly (Strymon melinus).

It can have one, two, or even three "hairs" on each wing. How much coral is on the wing varies, as does the amount of coral on the antennae.

Hairstreak Butterflies Identification Guide

enter image description here

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  • $\begingroup$ That is certainly it; thanks! I thought 'hairstreak' was an idiosyncratic name for the coral hairstreak, but it seems to be part of a theme. Do you know why hairstreaks are so called? (One might guess it's after the hairs that you've mentioned, but the coral hairstreak doesn't have those, so I am confused!) I also don't know how to tell that these things on the wings are properly called hairs, rather than tails …. Any further light you can shine would be much appreciated. $\endgroup$
    – LSpice
    Nov 7, 2021 at 22:34
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    $\begingroup$ @LSpice - You're right to be confused. Until I saw your question, I didn't know Coral Hairstreaks didn't have a hair. Hairstreaks are actually named for that "hair"; most of them have it. If you'd like to see it from a different angle, try ere. So cool! And I agree; swallowtails aren't called swallowhairs... but "gray hairstreak" is purely descriptive. $\endgroup$ Nov 7, 2021 at 22:57
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    $\begingroup$ @LSpice - Btw, that's a beautiful photograph! I have tried many times to photograph one, and have never come close to that. $\endgroup$ Nov 7, 2021 at 23:04
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for the clarification, and the compliment! The age of basically-free digital photography has upgraded me from "no pictures ever come out" to "fortunately, I can throw away 20 or more pictures that didn't work out for 1 that did." $\endgroup$
    – LSpice
    Nov 7, 2021 at 23:09
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    $\begingroup$ I got a picture of the wriggling behaviour described in your link, though it didn't come out as sharp: i.imgur.com/g8pxeOJ.jpg . I see a lot of these butterflies on my local trails, so I'll have to see if I can get a picture from below! $\endgroup$
    – LSpice
    Nov 7, 2021 at 23:12

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