Skip Navigation LinksOdes For Beginners : Identifying Odonates : ID 101 : Damselfy ID : Behavior

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Damselfly Behavior

Broad-winged Damsels

Pond Damsels


Behavior can give hints for ID but generally is not as significant for damselflies as it is for dragonflies.

Feeding: Is the damselfly actively chasing prey, or simply picking perched insects off vegetation?

Generally speaking, many damselflies, especially Bluets and Forktails, usually don't go very far for their food supply, and may seem to be bumping against leaves and stems as they pick off small invertebrates. Others will simply fly low over open water or patrol along the shoreline in and out of vegetation for a meal.

Flying: Is your ode flying in the open, poking through vegetation, or barely skimming a few inches above the water's surface? Does it fly with regular wing beats, or with erratic movements? Is it a weak or strong flier?

  • The Broad-winged Damsels are often spotted by their rather bouncy erratic flight, similar to that of a butterfly.
  • Pond Damsels, notably the Bluets, Forktails and Dancers, usually make slow, low, brief flights in and out of vegetation. Sprites can be almost invisible as they sneak through thick grass and sedges.
  • Spreadwings are often observed making weak and infrequent flights over water for only short distances, and usually patrol shorelines from emergent vegetation on which they rest.

Perching: Posture can serve as a useful tool in identification but keep in mind that while each species and family have "typical" styles, they can and do adopt more than one perching posture.

  • Broad-winged Damsels are almost always seen perched horizontally on streamside vegetation and rarely take on any other perching position.
  • Pond Damsels such as the Bluets and Forktails can be observed either perched horizontally or obliquely, on vegetation. Dancers tend to perch on the ground or on rocks more than other damselflies.
  • Spreadwings typically can be observed perched obliquely with wings spread slightly apart on emergent vegetation.

Habitat Selection: Where did you observe your ode? Most field guides describe the appropriate breeding sites for each species. CLICK HERE for more information on odonate habitats.

  • Broad-winged Damsels usually prefer streams and rivers.
  • Pond Damsels: Many Bluet species have a strong preference for flowing or still water. Forktails tend to favors ponds, bogs and lake edges. Most Dancer species prefer flowing water.
  • Spreadwings usually prefer a wide range of still-water habitats such as marshy ponds, temporary pools, stream backwaters and bogs.

Note: While many odes have specific breeding habitats, they may leave that area to mature or to feed and can be found most anywhere.

Flight Season: Typically each species has a limited period when they are active in your area. Consult a field guide or some of our web references for data on this.  Flight season can vary from one geographical area to the next. A species that flies in February in Texas may not be active until July in Ontario. A few species are active year round in warmer climates, but most have short flight periods that are specific to a particular season (spring, early-mid summer, late summer to early fall).

Time of day: Is your ode more active in the mid-afternoon or at dawn or dusk. It won't rule anything out, but may provide an important clue to its ID. Again, refer to a local field guide for information on individual species.

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