Dragonflies are some of the most awe-inspiring insects found in New Zealand’s diverse landscapes. With kaleidoscopic colours, razor-sharp wings and acrobatic flight skills, dragonflies mesmerize all who witness them. With over 190 species known to inhabit these isles, dragonflies illuminate even the most mundane of waterscapes. If you observe closely with patience, you may spot some of the 20 most common types explored in this article. From the iridescent Red-veined Pennant to the aptly named Scarlet Skimmer, each species has its own unique appearance and behaviours. Read on to discover these aerial jewels and gain newfound admiration for the magnificent world of New Zealand’s dragonflies.
|Common Name||Scientific Name|
|1||Red-veined Pennant||Neurobasis redferni|
|2||Brown Hawker||Austrosynlestes spiniceps|
|3||Kacparas’ Darter||Synthemis kacparasorum|
|4||Common Bluetail||Ischnura aurora|
|5||Variable Hawker||Austrocordulia variable|
|6||Wandering Glider||Pantala flavescens|
|7||Scarlet Darter||Crocothemis erythraea|
|8||Spotted Skimmer||Orion calcaratus|
|9||Cordileran Bluet||Austrolestes colensonis|
|11||Blue Damselfly||Xanthocnemis zealandica|
|12||Forest Pennant||Diplacodes bipunctata|
|13||Ornate Spreadwing||Lestes ornatus|
|14||Mountain Damselfly||Calopteryx maculata|
|15||Forest Sprite||Neozephyrus turneri|
|16||New Zealand Bluet||Austrolestes colensonis|
|18||Banded Pennant||Pentathemis costalis|
|19||Scarlet Skimmer||Nesoxenia lineata|
|20||Stream Bluet||Austroargiolestes chrysoides|
1. Red-veined Pennant
This dragonfly has a wingspan of around 50-55mm. The male has a reddish-orange abdomen with blue veins running lengthwise. Females are similar but darker in colour with a brownish abdomen. They are commonly found everywhere throughout New Zealand and often seen perched on vegetation along streambanks and lakeshores. They can be quite aggressive territorial defenders. Their scientific name is Neurobasis redferni.
2. Brown Hawker
With a wingspan of 40-45mm, the Brown Hawker dragonfly has a dark brown body and brownish-black wings. Males have brown eyes while females have green eyes. They are quite common throughout New Zealand and found near still or slow-moving freshwater habitats such as lakes, ponds and swamps. They perch prominently on vegetation and sightings peak during summer months. Their scientific name is Austrosynlestes spiniceps.
3. Kacparas’ Darter
This medium-sized dragonfly has a wingspan of around 35-40mm. Males have a whitish body with dark brown rings and yellow markings while females are darker brown overall. They are found throughout northern North Island near streams, rivers, ponds and lakes. Their flight is quite erratic as they dart and hover to catch flying prey. Their scientific name is Synthemis kacparasorum.
4. Common Bluetail
With a wingspan of 30-35mm, this dragonfly has a slender blue-green body and blue-tinted transparent wings. Males have a powder blue abdomen while the female’s is dark green. They are very common in most inland waters throughout New Zealand from streams to ponds and lakes. Often seen perched on reeds, they fly in an erratic fluttering manner. Their scientific name is Ischnura aurora.
5. Variable Hawker
Adult male Variable Hawkers have a wingspan of 40-45mm with a striking yellow and black banded abdomen. Females are brown and a little larger at 45-50mm. They are found near still freshwater habitats throughout New Zealand except the far south. Males actively patrol and defend territories. They fly low and fast, hovering at times. Their scientific name is Austrocordulia variable.
6. Wandering Glider
With a wingspan of 35-40mm, this dragonfly has a typical slender brown body. Females are darker brown while males have black markings. They are common throughout New Zealand near ponds, streams and rivers where they perch prominently on foliage. When disturbed, they fly away slowly on whirring wings. Their scientific name is Pantala flavescens.
7. Scarlet Darter
Adult males have a striking bright scarlet abdomen contrasted with black markings and a wingspan around 35-40mm. Females are brown. They inhabit ponds, lakes and slow streams throughout New Zealand except the far south. Males are very territorial and fly rapidly low over the water in a darting manner. Their scientific name is Crocothemis erythraea.
8. Spotted Skimmer
With a wingspan of 45-50mm, this dragonfly has a largish robust brown body. Males have green eyes and prominent black spots on the second wing segment. Females are dull brown. They can be found near lakes, ponds and slow streams throughout New Zealand except the far south coasts. Males fly rapidly back and forth at head height while patrolling breeding territories. Their scientific name is Orion calcaratus.
9. Cordileran Bluet
Adults of this small dragonfly have a slender blue-green body and wingspan of 25-30mm. Males have paler blue-green coloration while females are darker olive-green. They inhabit forest streams and seeps throughout New Zealand except the northern North Island and far south. Often seen perching on streamside foliage, they fly in a graceful gliding manner. Their scientific name is Austrolestes colensonis.
Characterized by a large wingspan of 50-55mm, the male Kestrel has a metallic golden brown body while females are yellow-brown. They inhabit a variety of freshwater habitats throughout New Zealand especially still waters near forest. Males patrol territories aggressively, hovering and darting at high speed. Their scientific name is Lestes uncifer.
11. Blue Damselfly
With a wingspan of 25-30mm, this tiny damselfly has a slender azure blue body. Several pale rings encircle the abdomen. Throughout New Zealand they are commonly found near ponds, lakes and slow streams where they perch on overhanging vegetation. Their scientific name is Xanthocnemis zealandica.
12. Forest Pennant
Adult males typically have a wingspan of 40-45mm with a reddish-brown body and blackish markings. Females are brown. Found near forest streams, rivers and pools throughout New Zealand except far north and south, they perch prominently on streamside vegetation. Their scientific name is Diplacodes bipunctata.
13. Ornate Spreadwing
Characterized by a wingspan of 30-35mm and ornately patterned wings, this damselfly has a slender greenish body. Males have powder blue markings while females are olive. Throughout New Zealand they inhabit shady forest streams as well as ponds and lakes. They perch upright on streamside leaves and fly in a fluttery gliding manner. Their scientific name is Lestes ornatus.
14. Mountain Damselfly
With a wingspan of 25-30mm, this small damselfly has a slender green body. Males have pale blue markings and darker eyes than females. Found near mountain streams and tarns in central North Island and southern alps, it perches with wings closed on streamside stones and vegetation. Its scientific name is Calopteryx maculata.
15. Forest Sprite
Adults of this tiny damselfly have a striking bright blue to azure blue body and a 20-25mm wingspan. Males are slightly paler blue than females. Found around forest seeps and streams throughout New Zealand except north, it perches motionless on foliage at streams edge. Its scientific name is Neozephyrus turneri.
16. New Zealand Bluet
Characterized by its tiny 18-22mm wingspan, this damselfly has a slender blue-green body. Males are paler blue while females are darker blue-green. Common throughout New Zealand near forest streams, pools and ponds, they perch upright on foliage with wings closed. Its scientific name isAustrolestes colensonis.
With a large wingspan of 50-55mm, males have an intricately patterned brown and yellow abdomen. Females are brown. Found near forest lakes, streams and ponds throughout New Zealand, males actively defend territories through aggressive chasing and flashing wings. Their scientific name is Ladona julia.
18. Banded Pennant
Adults of this pennant dragonfly have a wingspan around 40-45mm. Males are bright emerald green with black bands while females are dull brown. Widespread throughout New Zealand near ponds, streams and rivers, they perch prominently on vegetation and fly in a darting manner. Its scientific name is Pentathemis costalis.
19. Scarlet Skimmer
Large with a 55-60mm wingspan, males have a striking scarlet abdomen contrasted with black markings. Females are yellow-brown. Common near lakes, ponds and slow streams throughout New Zealand, males aggressively patrol territories, hovering and darting rapidly. Their scientific name is Nesoxenia lineata.
20. Stream Bluet
Only reaching a tiny 18-22mm wingspan, adults of this damselfly have a slender bluish-green body. Males are a paler blue-green while females are darker olive-green. Common near forest streams throughout New Zealand, they hug streamside rocks and vegetation when perching with wings closed. Their scientific name is Austroargiolestes chrysoides.