Common Darter - Sympetrum striolatum
Adult sizeOverall length: 33 - 44mm Hindwing length: 24 - 30mm
Distinguishing featuresThe commonest and largest of the darters, a late summer and autumn species that can be seen flying as late as November. Distinguishing feature is that this is the only darter with yellow and black striped legs (need to view at close quarters!) Males can be variable in their orange–red colouration.
Identification - for help with terms see glossary
HabitatPonds and other still, stagnant or even brackish waters are favoured and they are frequently found at small garden ponds. They are frequently found away from water, resting on the tops of plants in woodland rides.
BehaviourMales will be territorial as with other darters and will often find a favoured perch from which to chase of rivals. They also, like the skimmers, often perch on open ground, logs and rocks in order to warm up in cooler weather. The male and female can be seen in tandem while egg laying where the female will dip her abdomen in the water, but females will also do this alone.
Status and distributionAbundant in England, Wales and Ireland. Less common in Scotland, and commonly found at most suitable sites. Will tolerate a wide range of conditions. Very common across Dorset.
Flight periodMain flight period is May to December peaking in August & September.
May be confused with the Ruddy Darter, however the latter is noticeably smaller, there is a waisted appearance as the abdomen broadens out towards the tip. Ruddy Darter legs are black not striped. The colour of a mature male Ruddy Darter is a much deeper blood-red than the Common Darter. Female Ruddy Darters have no antehumeral stripes but do have a ‘T’ shaped marking on the top of the thorax. Female Black Darters from the side have a thick black stripe running down the side of the abdomen, a broader ‘T’ shape on thorax, have yellow and black stripes on the thorax when seen from the side with small yellow dots, unique to this species.
Click on the photos below to enlarge...
All photographs by kind permission & © of Ken Dolbear unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.