Common British Dragnflies

Did you know there are 36 species of dragonfly in the UK? There are chaser and hawkers, skimmers and darters and even dragonfly emperors!

But how many species do you know? Can you identify that dragonfly darting past you by the river?

Come join me as we meet a few of our most common British Dragonflies. 

broad bodied chaser
black darter
four spotted chaser
British dragonflies, brown hawker
common darter

British Dragonflies

There are so many dragonflies hawking, swooping and flitting all around our lakes, ponds, canals, hedgerows and riverbanks all over the UK. In fact, we have 36 different species across the British Isles. 

Here I shall introduce you to 10 of the most common dragonflies you are likely to come across on your nature walk through the British countryside.

So, without further ado… here is our guide to the 10 most common British dragonflies!

Broad-bodied Chaser

(Libellula depressa)

broad bodied chaser

The broad-bodied chaser is a middling sized dragonfly that can often be found hanging out around small lakes and ponds. It is identified by its brown head and blue body (male) and by its brown head and orange-brown body (female).

Four-spotted Chaser

(Libellula quadrimaculata)

four spotted chaser

The four-spotted chaser is another middling sized dragonfly that can be found marking out their territories over heathlands and moors. They are identified by their orange-brown bodies with dark tail tips and the four large dark spots on their wings.

Black Darter

(Sympetrum danae)

black darter

The black darter is a smallish sized dragonfly that can be found skitting and darting and over moorlands, heathlands and bogs. It is identified by its nearly all-black body (it is our smallest and only black dragonfly).

Common Darter

(Sympetrum striolatum)

common darter

The common darter is a smallish sized, red-coloured dragonfly, often spotted darting and chasing its prey around rivers, ponds and lakes. It is identified by it’s bright red colour (males) and by its orange-brown colour (females).

Emperor Dragonfly

(Anax imperator)

British dragonflies, emperor dragonfly

The emperor dragonfly is one of our largest dragonflies and can be found almost always up in the air over ponds, lakes and canals. In fact, it prefers flying to perching and even eats its prey while flying through the air! It is identified by its large size, green-blue eyes and bright blue body. 

Golden-ringed Dragonfly

(Cordulegaster boltonii)

golden ringed dragonfly

The golden-ringed dragonfly is another large dragonfly that can often be found patrolling moorland and heathland streams. They have huge appetites and are voracious hunters, catching bees, beetles, butterflies and even other dragonflies. It is identified by its large size, the black and yellow stripes on its body and its amazing bright green eyes. 

Brown Hawker

(Aeshna grandis)

British dragonflies, brown hawker

The brown hawker is another very large dragonfly that can be found hawking and patrolling its territory over canals, marshes and reed-beds. Like emperor dragonflies, brown hawkers also catch and eat their prey on the wing and are very agile hunters. They are identified by their brown bodies and orange-brown wings. 

Migrant Hawker

(Aeshna mixta)

The migrant hawker is a middling-sized dragonfly, found dancing and hawking over woodlands, gardens and meadows. Like the other hawkers, they are very agile and swift on the wing, flying sideways, on the spot and even flying backwards. 

They are identified by their blue spotted, brown-black bodies and blue eyes (male) and yellow-spotted body with brown eyes (female).

Southern Hawker

(Aeshna cyanea)

southern hawker

The southern hawker is another large dragonfly that can often be found hawking across wooded lakes, ponds and canal banks. 

It is identified by its green-spotted, black body and blue-green eyes (male) and green-spotted body with brown eyes (female).

Black-tailed Skimmer

(Orthetrum cancellatum)

black tailed skimmer

The black-tailed skimmer is a middling-sized, narrow-bodied dragonfly, often found around old, muddy gravel pits and reservoirs. 

It is identified by its light blue-grey, black tail-tipped body (male) and its black-striped, yellow-brown body (female).

Are you ready for a Nature Adventure?

Do you wish you had a convenient, pocket-sized guide to our most common British dragonflies that you can carry with you on your Nature Walks?

Now you can! 

Check out our Dragonfly Spotter Sheets and Dragonfly Carry Cards here!

To learn more about our British dragonflies, you may find the following links to be helpful:

While Nature Walking for dragonflies, why not earn a new Nature Badge or two? You can find all our Nature Badges here.

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