Downy Emerald – Cordulia aenea

Adult size

Overall length: 47 - 55mm   Hindwing length: 31 - 34mm

Distinguishing features.

The Downy Emerald is one of three Emerald dragonflies found in Britain. It is a medium sized metallic green dragonfly with a copper sheen and noticeable bright apple green eyes. The male has a slightly club shaped abdomen and as the name suggests a downy thorax. An early spring/summer species they can be elusive and often hard to find!

Identification - for help with terms see glossary

Mature Males

Have a bronzy green abdomen which is noticeably waisted and can look almost black when not seen in direct sunlight. Eyes are bright emerald green and the thorax is bronzy green fringed with brown hairs or down.

Immature males

Much duller in appearance, abdomen not shiny yet. Thorax is green with brown down and eyes are brown.

Mature females

Not waited like males but similar in colour with a bronzy green abdomen. Thorax is emerald in colour with paler hairs and eyes are bright emerald green.

Immature females

Similar to mature duller in appearance with brown eyes.


A pond, lake or canal within or close to deciduous woodland with scattered bankside trees, sparse stands of emergent vegetation and a carpet of leaf litter on the pond floor will offer the best conditions for breeding.


Males will patrol over water close to the bank but rarely settle by water and will often fly up into the canopy to perch. Adults will also feed at canopy height. Can be overlooked at sites due to this behaviour. Both sexes will often be found far away from water.

Status and distribution

Has a wide but very scattered distribution in Britain. Stronghold in south east of England.  Very patchy distribution in Dorset but is probably under recorded.

Flight period

Main flight period is April to August, peaking in late May to mid June.

Similar species.

Could only be confused with Brilliant Emerald found only in northern Scotland and south east England and Northern Emerald which is only found in northern Scotland.

More photographs

Click on the photos below to enlarge...


Mature Male (photo © David Kitching)

Mature Female (photo © David Kitching)

All photographs by kind permission & © of Ken Dolbear unless otherwise stated. All rights reserved.