September 10th, 2010


50 More Urban Species #32: Common Whitetail

Common whitetail Plathemis lydia

The common whitetail is named for the male's pale bluish-white abdomen. The female looks very different, with a dark brown abdomen marked with light colored diagonal dashes. The male of this dragonfly species are unmistakable, but at least one guide warns that the female's dark wing markings make her resemble the 12 spotted skimmer. The 12 spot has a much longer abdomen with a more slender overall appearance. The whitetail also has a habit of perching on the ground, a behavior less likely in the other dragonfly. Alexis and I photographed these female whitetails on two consecutive days, perching horizontally on the stone footbridge in the Riverway. When disturbed they would fly a short distance away, landing horizontally again, or vertically as shown above, on a nearby tree. We took these animals to be resting at the end of their life spans, but they may live on for a few more months, feeding on mosquitoes, midges, and other flying insects by the river.

Alexis' photograph: