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In making an identification, observing behavior can be almost as important as noting
appearance. But be careful, frequently some ornery ode will behave in a totally
unusual or unexpected fashion. Some things to look for:
Flying: Is the dragonfly flying high, cruising
low over the water surface, or just flittering around at the waters edge?
- Darners and Emeralds commonly fly high, rarely stopping to perch.
- Cruisers and Spiketails take long patrols just barely skimming the water surface.
- Skimmers are usually found fluttering around at the waters edge, occasionally taking
- Clubtails often fly patrols low over the water, seeking mates. They are notorious
for flying up into the treetops when startled.
Perching: Perching postures can serve as a useful
tool in identification but keep in mind that while each species and family may have
"normal" perching posture, they can and do adopt more than one perching
posture. For example, Pennants are named for their flag-like habit of perching
at the very tip of a long stem and waving in the breeze, but other species may do
this as well.
- Most Skimmers commonly perch horizontally or obliquely on stems and branches.
- Others, such as Pondhawks, Corporals and Whitetails regularly perch on the ground
or flat surfaces.
- Darners and Emeralds typically hang from foliage and branches or perch vertically
on tree trunks, but on cold days you may find them flat on the ground warming
- Most Clubtails perch on flat surfaces, but some land on leaves and hang from them.
- Cruisers and Spiketails are usually seen flying but when they do perch it is usually
vertically from foliage.
Feeding: Is the dragonfly actively flying to
catch prey or sitting perched waiting for insects to get within its reach and then
darting after them?
- Darners and Emeralds commonly patrol to catch their prey, often forming feeding
swarms in the early mornings and evening
- Skimmers patiently wait for a meal to fly by, darting from their perch in pursuit
- Spiketails and Cruisers actively seek prey by skimming over the waters surface.
- Clubtails usually perch on the ground or a low perch and fly out to attack their
Habitat Selection: Where did you observe
your dragon? Many odes have a preference for specific habitats, whether they are
rivers, streams, swampy boggy areas, ponds or lakes. Listing the exact habitat for
each species is beyond the scope of this site, but most field guides describe the
appropriate breeding sites.
Skimmers can be found in a wide variety of habitats but most prefer marshes,
ponds and lakes.
- Most Darners prefer marshy areas for breeding, although a few may use small streams
- Emeralds breed in a wide variety of habitats, but each species usually has very
- Spiketails breed and patrol along seeps and woodland streams while Cruisers patrol
fairly large rivers.
- Many Clubtails require specific habitats for breeding, most, but not all may only
be found along moving water.
Note: while many dragons 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 warm climes, but most have short flight periods that are
specific to a particular season (spring, early-mid summer, late summer to early
Time of day: Is your dragonfly 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 your field guide for
information on individual species.