Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Cardinal Meadowhawks: An Early Dragonfly

The three most common meadowhawks in our area are the Cardinal Meadowhawk, Striped Meadowhawk, and Autumn Meadowhwak.

Cardinal Meadowhawks are the first to fly, appearing as early as mid May.  Striped Meadowhawks become common in July, and Autumn Meadowhawks show up in numbers in August.  By the way, the Autumn Meadow is our latest flying dragonfly – hence its name – and it can be seen well into November.

The photos below are of Cardinal Meadowhawks in Vacaville, California in late May.  If you see a red dragonfly in our area in the next several weeks it'll probably be a Cardinal Meadowhawk.  The best field marks for Cardinal Meadowhawks are white spots on the side of the thorax and dark concentrations of red at the base of the wings.  Look for these marks in the following photos:

Cardinal Meadowhawk, male.  Notice the white spot on the thorax and the dark red at the base of the wings.  The four white spots are often hard to see when covered by the wings, as here, but the dark red in the wings is almost always visible.

Cardinal Meadowhawk, male.  One of the four white spots on the thorax is visible, as is the dark red at wing base.

Cardinal Meadowhawk, immature female.  The tiny egg scoop near the tip of the abdomen shows it's a female, and the white spots and dark red in wings shows its a Cardinal.  This individual will become slightly more colorful as it matures.  Teneral (freshly emerged) meadowhawks are often yellow, and become red with age.

In the field, male Cardinal Meadowhawks are intensely red.  Sometimes it's hard to believe a living creature can be that colorful – when you see one you'll know what I mean.

1 comment:

  1. We have a Cardinal Meadowhawk sitting on our fig tree here in Little Elm, Texas. i have never seen anything as beautiful.

    Bill and Diane Hayward