Black-tailed Skimmer - Orthetrum cancellatum
Adult sizeOverall length: 44 - 50mm Hindwing length: 35 - 40mm
Distinguishing featuresThe larger of the two skimmer dragonflies. Characteristically both species are long and narrow in appearance. They will happily perch on open ground, rocks and logs and have a ‘hunched’ appearance as their wings tend to point forward. Male has black on last 4 abdominal segments.
Identification - for help with terms see glossary
HabitatThis species seems to favour larger open water bodies such as lakes, large ponds, gravel and clay pits, and also slow flowing rivers with partially exposed margins on which to bask and defend territories. Can tolerate brackish conditions.
BehaviourAs with the Keeled Skimmer and darter dragonflies they will tend to perch on bare exposed surfaces such as bare mud, stones and logs. Wings tend to point forward when at rest. Males are very territorial and aggressively defend their patches from intruders.
Status and distributionEssentially a southern species but is expanding its range northwards. Can be numerous when habitat is suitable. Can be locally common at some sites in Dorset.
Flight periodMain flight period is April to September peaking in June and July.
The male could be confused with Keeled Skimmer, but the black 'tail' with separate them. Scarce Chaser males have a similar blue abdomen with a black tail but they have dark wing patches and the thorax is black.
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All photographs by kind permission & © of Ken Dolbear unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.