Dukes of the Chilterns

Duke of Burgundy

The Duke of Burgundy has been lost from 84% of known sites since 1976, making the species Britain’s fourth most threatened butterfly.

The butterfly is already extinct from some counties in South East England, including Surrey and the Isle of Wight, and has undergone severe declines in Kent, West  Sussex and the Chilterns. Even in Hampshire, once the species’ apparent stronghold, many colonies have been lost. 

The Duke of Burgundy faces a real risk of extinction across much of its range. The Chilterns landscape is essential for its survival.
This delicate butterfly has two main habitats. Chalk grassland, with extensive areas of sheltering scrub, can provide a haven for the Duke if the caterpillar foodplant Cowslip is plentiful in the right conditions. The species will also make a home in woodland clearings and wide rides in regenerating coppice, young plantations or sizeable glades where the caterpillars can feed on Primrose plants. 

If we are able to provide more habitat that meets these requirements we will also help a number of other threatened butterflies that love this scrubby mosaic grassland, including Dingy Skipper, Grizzled Skipper, Green Hairstreak and Dark Green Fritillary.

Many other species will also benefit from the project, including rare plants like the Fly Orchid and Chiltern Gentian.

The Chilterns is a vital landscape for the Duke of Burgundy. Maintaining and improving the breeding habitat within this region will make a significant contribution to the future of this vulnerable butterfly on a regional scale and across the UK. 

The project

Only nine Duke of Burgundy colonies remain in the Chilterns. Since the 1980s 21 colonies have been lost, a decline of 71%. The remaining butterflies are highly vulnerable; they are living in small and isolated colonies which could easily be lost. We have begun a programme of carefully targeted habitat management work to strengthen butterfly populations and help this beautiful butterfly find new places to live and breed, across the Chiltern hills.

This project will:

  • improve habitat on existing sites to prevent local extinctions;
  • restore former sites and improve potential sites to encourage colonisation;
  • connect suitable sites to stabilise populations by facilitating movement;
  • increase availability of the caterpillar food plant, Cowslip.

Your support will:

  • help fund the Project Officer who is co-ordinating the project, including organising work parties
  • allow employment of expert contractors to undertake specific conservation work on the project sites
  • cover the cost of plug plants of the caterpillar foodplant, Cowslip, to increase availability across the landscape
  • train volunteers to help provide sustainable ongoing management of the site once the project has ended.



Please help us save the Duke of Burgundy in the Chilterns 






This project would not be possible without the support of the Veolia Environmental Trust, Butterfly Conservation Upper Thames Branch, Butterfly Conservation Hertfordshire and Middlesex Branch, National Trust, Natural England and Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust.

 Yellow Veolia