Grassy places of almost any description provide suitable habitat for the Meadow Brown. It's found on open ground, along roadside verges, in gardens, around woodlands, on heaths, downland and cliffs, and is normally very abundant. It is the most common species in the British Isles, but isn't found at the at highest altitudes.
Many species of grass are suitable foodplants for the Meadow Brown.
The first Meadow Browns are seen in June and they continue usually well into August. In warm years there may be a second brood, accounting for the later specimens, but the first brood may possibly be extended by slower-developing and therefore later-emerging butterflies. Immigrations of Meadow Browns have been observed, but it isn't generally regarded as being a migratory species. It has been caught in light traps at night. Winter is passed as a caterpillar.
The male has prominent eye-spots on the forewing and is otherwise almost unmarked, bitter-chocolate colour all over. The female has heavy markings of orange on all four wings in addition to the eye-spots, and is so unlike the male that the two were originally described by Linnaeus as two separate species. Markings and ground colour of the typical species (ssp. insularis Thompson) are variable and some areas produce butterflies with brighter colouring and marking than others. In the west of Scotland and the Hebrides occurs ssp. splendida Buchanan White, a large, bright form with a darker than normal ground colour. Irish specimens (ssp. iernes Graves) are also particularly fine and have a more uniform underside, especially in comparison with the more mottled underside of the Scilly Isles ssp. cassiteridum Graves.
The eggs are laid amongst the grasses and the larvae hide there by day and come out at night to feed. They never properly stop feeding for hibernation, though they slow down and will rest for days, especially in cold weather. Six instars are completed through the spring, pupae being produced during May and June. The pupa is suspended from the stem of a grass or nearby plant, hanging from the tail and it lasts from three to four weeks.