This is the earliest of the
European gatekeeper species, flying in a single generation from April
to July in sunny, grassy places, hillsides and light woodland. It is
locally common throughout Iberia and in the South of France, often
flying with its two cogeners, the gatekeeper and the southern
gatekeeper. I have found it in long grass and alongside wooded rivers
in Aragón, as well as relatively bare hill tracks in Málaga. I first
encountered it, though, when I lived in Gibraltar in 1983, where it is
a common resident up the rock.
Of the three, this is the most distinctive. The male sex brand encloses
an entirely dark basal half to the forewing, unlike those of the
gatekeeper and southern gatekeeper, which project into the orange
ground colour. The hindwing upperside of both sexes sports a series of
white-pupilled, postdiscal ocelli - absent from the other species. The
underside is dark with an angled, cream band dividing the basal region
from the postdiscal region and there is a complete series of
orange-ringed, white-pupilled black spots just outside this band.
Altogether, it is an unmistakable package.
The caterpillars, which hibernate, feed on false brome grass.