Black-tailed Skimmer Orthetrum cancellatum


Scientific Name: Orthetrum cancellatum. (Libellulidae.)

English Name: Black-tailed Skimmer. Males nicknamed 'Blue Arrows'. (Darters and Chasers family.)

French Name:  L'Orthétrum réticulé (='reticulated skimmer')




5 Key Characters:  
  • flies fast and low, very active.
  • often sits on bare ground or rocks.
  • females and immature (teneral) males have yellow abdomens with black lengthwise stripes or lattice pattern; mature males  go dusted blue; old females go dusted brown.
  • males always have black tip to abdomen.
  • clear wings with black pterostigmas (the coloured mark on the leading edge towards the tip).
Lookalikes:  White-tailed Skimmer O. albistylum, which has white stripes on the thorax and white appendages at the tip of the abdomen. The Black-tailed is overall darker and more evenly coloured. See this post in Days on the Claise for full details of how to tell the Skimmer species apart. Tenerals can be mistaken for Clubtails Gomphus spp, but these are thinner bodied and the impression is of a black abdomen with a yellow central stripe. Slightly longer and with a slightly wider wingspan, but less robust looking, than the Chasers, who have coloured wing bases.


Habitat: Large open still or slow flowing bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, canals and sandpits, often without bankside vegetation. Tolerates moderate pollution.

Flight Period: May-June-July-August-September.

Status:  Widespread, one of the most common species. A pioneering species which quickly occupies recently created sites.

Photographed by Loire Valley Nature:
 
On the boat ramp, Preuilly sur Claise.

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