20 Types of Dragonflies in Puerto Rico

The skies above Puerto Rico’s wetland ecosystems are alive with speeding, swirling dashes of color – these are dragonflies, some of the island’s most acrobatic aerial insect residents. From delicate citrine forktails perched on reeds to massive green darners patrolling vast territories, over 20 common species call these watery havens home. As agile hunters and vibrant sentinels of the wetlands, dragonflies play key roles within these biodiverse areas. This guide profiles the most frequently observed Odonata, from their dynamic appearances and habits to preferred habitats. Get ready to have your senses stunned by this vibrant showcase of Puerto Rico’s wetland wildlife wonders – the amazing world of dragonflies!

Dragonfly Wingspan (mm) Description
Common Whitetail Male: 50-55
Female: 55-60
Distinct white tail, dark blue/black color, frequents ponds and marshes
Carolina Saddlebags Male: 45-53
Female: 50-60
Black “saddlebag” patterns, blue-black thorax, found near marshes and rivers
Carolina Firetail Male: 40-45
Female: 45-50
Turquoise/yellow/black stripes, red/orange firetail tip, found near streams and ponds
Mulberry Wing Male: 55-65
Female: 60-70
Large size, brown wings, green/yellow striped abdomen, found near marshes and ponds
Eastern Pondhawk Male: 30-35
Female: 35-40
Small size, variable green/brown color, turquoise eyes, found near ponds and marshes
Blue Dasher Male: 40-45
Female: 45-50
Metallic blue/green thorax, blue striped abdomen, territories near vegetation
Spangled Skimmer Male: 40-45
Female: 45-50
Sapphire blue thorax/sides, iridescent blue/black striped abdomen
Cinnamon Shadowdragon Male: 38-45
Female: 43-50
Brown/cinnamon thorax, yellow striped/spots, found along forest streams
Twelve-spotted Skimmer Male: 40-50
Female: 45-55
Black abdomen with 12 bright yellow spots, found near marshes and ponds
Autumn Meadowhawk Male: 35-42
Female: 40-47
Emerges late summer-fall, yellow thorax stripes, found near marshes and pools
Green Darner Male: 65-70
Female: 70-80
Largest species, green abdomen/thorax, powersful flier, found near marshes and rivers
Citrine Forktail Male: 30-36
Female: 33-40
Pale yellow abdomen, black patterns, ambush predator near ponds and streams
Ruby Meadowhawk Male: 30-38
Female: 35-43
Male has ruby red thorax, territorial near marshes and ponds
Eight-spotted Skimmer Male: 35-45
Female: 40-50
Similar to 12-spotted skimmer but with 8 abdomen spots
Blue Corporal Male: 35-40
Female: 38-45
Electric blue thorax/abdomen segments, habitat generalist
Blue Dasher Male: 40-45
Female: 45-50
Metallic blue/green thorax, blue striped abdomen, territories near vegetation
Eastern Pondhawk Male: 30-35
Female: 35-40
Small size, variable green/brown color, turquoise eyes, found near ponds and marshes

1. Common Whitetail

The Common Whitetail (Plathemis lydia) is one of the most widespread and abundant dragonflies found throughout Puerto Rico. As its name implies, it has a distinct white tail and it is usually all dark blue or black in color with slight variations in pattern between individuals. The white tail makes it easy to spot as it perches or hunts for prey. Males have a wingspan around 50-55mm while females are slightly larger at 55-60mm. Their preferred habitat includes ponds, lakes, marshes and wetland areas where they can hunt slower moving insects like mosquitoes, flies and midges. They are active hunters that will quickly chase down prey both in flight and near the water’s surface. Females lay their eggs by touching the water with their abdomen to deposit egg masses on submerged vegetation.

2. Carolina Saddlebags

The Carolina Saddlebags (Tramea carolina) are another very common dragonfly found near wetlands and bodies of water across Puerto Rico. They are medium-sized dragonflies with males having a wingspan of 45-53mm and females measuring slightly larger at 50-60mm. As their name suggests, they have distinctive black “saddlebags” patterns on the sides of their abdomen which helps distinguish them from similar looking species. Their thorax is mostly blue-black in coloration. Both males and females are active hunters that will rapidly chase down smaller flying insects to feed on. Carolina Saddlebags prefer sunny, open spaces near marshes, rivers and lakes where they are often seen patrolling for prey or perching to sun themselves. They are strong fliers capable of covering long distances if needed to find suitable habitat.

3. Carolina Firetail

The Carolina Firetail (Nannothemis bella) is a moderately sized but very attractive dragonfly commonly found near slow moving streams, oxbow lakes and ponds across Puerto Rico’s forests and wetlands. They have a bright turquoise blue thorax and abdomen marked with striking yellow and black stripes. Their most distinguishing characteristic is the bright red or orange coloration at the tip of their abdomen, giving them their ‘firetail’ name. Males have a wingspan averaging 40-45mm while females are slightly larger around 45-50mm. They are habitat generalists found in a variety of sunny and shaded aquatic areas. Males actively defend territories along streams where mating occurs. Females lay their eggs directly into vegetation or at the water’s edge and larvae live amongst aquatic plants for around one year before emerging as adults.

4. Mulberry Wing

The Mulberry Wing (Dicotenia scudderi) is a large, dominant dragonfly easily identified by its distinctive brown wing coloration. It has a wingspan measuring 55-65mm for males and 60-70mm for females, making it among the largest dragonflies in Puerto Rico. As their name suggests, their wings have a rich mulberry-brown hue with subtle patterns visible in some lightings. Their abdomen and thorax are marked with green and yellow stripes. Mulberry Wings are habitat generalists found near marshes, ponds and slower moving rivers where they will actively patrol for prey through the day. They are powerful fliers capable of transporting downed prey items back to perches high in surrounding trees and shrubs. During warmer periods, mating swarms can form over the water’s surface as males compete for females. Overall, they are an impressive and common sight near wetlands across the island.

5. Eastern Pondhawk

The Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) is a small but abundant dragonfly observed all across Puerto Rico. As its name implies, it prefers a variety of small temporary and permanent ponds, ditches and marshes near forests and residential areas. Adults have thin bodies with a wingspan averaging 30-35mm for males and around 35-40mm for females. Their coloration can be quite variable from light green to dark brown/black on the thorax and abdomen depending on age and location. Perhaps their most distinguishing feature is the bright turquoise eyes and green/yellow stripes or spots on their sides. Often seen patrolling dense vegetation and traveling in small foraging groups, they are agile flyers. Both males and females are prolific hunters that actively capture small insects like gnats, mosquitoes and flies in flight or near the water’s surface.

They complete their entire life cycle within 2-3 months.

6. Blue Dasher

The Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) is a mid-sized but very common dragonfly inhabiting most marshes, ponds and slow moving streams across Puerto Rico. They get their name from the striking metallic blue or greenish coloration of their thorax. Males have a wingspan around 40-45mm while females range 45-50mm. Their colors can vary from light blue to dark blue-green depending on location and age. One distinguishing feature is the darker blue stripes running down each side of their abdomen. Both males and females are highly territorial with powerful fast flight. They are often seen aggressively chasing otherflying insects or patrolling territories near dense vegetation at the water’s edge. Blue Dashers complete their life cycle within a single year with larvae overwintering underwater before emerging as adults the following spring and summer months.

7. Spangled Skimmer

The Spangled Skimmer (Libellula cyanea) is an elegant dragonfly easily recognized by the metallic sapphire blue coloration of its thorax and sides of the abdomen. Males have a wingspan averaging 40-45mm while females are slightly larger at 45-50mm. Running down each side of the abdomen are iridescent spangled blue and black stripes, giving them their common name. They are found inhabiting a variety of sunny ponds, lakes, marshes and slow moving streams across Puerto Rico where ample vegetation exists for perching. Both sexes are strong fliers known to travel long distances. Males actively defend territories and engage in elaborate courtship flights with potential mates above breeding zones. Females lay egg clusters directly into vegetation then depart, leaving larvae to complete their aquatic lifecycle over 6-9 months before emerging.

8. Cinnamon Shadowdragon

The Cinnamon Shadowdragon (Neurocordulia yamaskanensis) is a medium-sized dragonfly commonly found along forest streams, oxbow ponds and other natural wetlands across Puerto Rico. As its name suggests, they have a subtle brown or cinnamon-colored thorax with fine yellow stripes. Males measure 38-45mm across the wings while females are slightly larger at 43-50mm. Another distinguishing feature are the bright yellow antehumeral stripes on the thorax. They are strong fliers that agilely cruise and hover over water in search of prey like mosquitoes and flies. Males establish territories where they may perch up to 10m above streams looking for intruders or patrolling mating zones. Females oviposit eggs directly into plant stems or submerged leaves near suitable larval feeding areas. They complete their lifespan within 1-2 years in the aquatic nymph stage before emerging.

9. Twelve-spotted Skimmer

The Twelve-spotted Skimmer (Libellula pulchella) gets its name from the distinctive bright yellow spots (usually 12) running down each side of its slender black abdomen. Females have a wingspan around 45-55mm while males are slightly smaller at 40-50mm. They prefer sunny open marshes, ponds and slow moving streams across Puerto Rico where ample hunting territories exist. Like many pond skimmers, males are highly territorial aggressively defending airspace near the water. Their flight is fast and energetic as they chase other flying insects. Sexually active males engage females in aerial courtship flights then depart, leaving females to oviposit eggs into vegetation of their choice along the shoreline. Both nymphs and adults feed primarily on mosquitoes, flies, mayflies and small moths around wetland areas. Overall they are a common sight across many natural and man-made wetland habitats on the island.

10. Autumn Meadowhawk

The Autumn Meadowhawk (Sympetrum vicinum) earns its name from its preference for emergence and peak activity occurring in late summer and early autumn months across Puerto Rico. Adults can range from a dull brown to a bright reddish-orange color depending on age and sex. Males average 35-42mm across the wings while females measure 40-47mm. One identifying trait are the prominent yellow stripes running along each side of the thorax. They thrive in sunny open marshes, pools, ponds and slowly flowing streams where aquatic vegetation provides ample hunting and perching territory. Autumn Meadowhawks are fast, agile fliers known to aggressively chase down flying insects for food. Nymphs overwinter at the bottom of wetlands, emerging as adults the following late summer to deposit next generation’s eggs. Their distinct coloration makes them one of the later season dragonflies observed.

11. Green Darner

The Green Darner (Anax junius) derives its common name from the predominantly vivid green coloration of its long, slender abdomen and thorax. It is the largest dragonfly regularly observed in Puerto Rico with males having a wingspan averaging 65-70mm and females a massive 70-80mm across. With their long wings and body, Greens Darners are powerful fliers capable of migrating hundreds of miles if needed. They thrive along marshes, large ponds and rivers where ample open territory exists to hunt flying insects in their flight path. Males actively patrol territories near breeding grounds to court and mate with females. Nymphs take 2-3 years inhabiting aquatic habitats before emerging as territorial adults in spring and summer. Their bright green armor helps make Greens Darners one of the most noticeable dragonfly species.

12. Spangled Skimmer

The Citrine Forktail (Ischnura hastata) truly earns its name from the unique pale yellow coloration and black patterning of its slender abdomen. Males have an average wingspan of 30-36mm while females measure slightly larger at 33-40mm. They are commonly found near sunny ponds, sluggish streams and marshy areas with plenty of emergent vegetation across Puerto Rico’s wetlands. Citrine Forktails are ambush predators that perch motionless on reeds or grasses over water to spot passing prey like mosquitoes or gnats which they rapidly dart out to capture. Nymphs live submerged amongst plants and detritus feeding before transforming. Both sexes tolerate a wide range of aquatic conditions from clean to slightly brackish waters. Their namesake pale yellow abdominal markings distinguish Citrine Forktails as one of the more elegant pond damselflies.

13. Ruby Meadowhawk

The Ruby Meadowhawk (Sympetrum rubicundulum) is a strikingly colored dragonfly with the male sporting a brilliant metallic ruby red thorax and first abdominal segments. Their body plan and behavior matches many meadowhawks with males having a 30-38mm wingspan and females measuring slightly larger at 35-43mm. As the name suggests, their preferred habitat includes sunny marshes, ponds or slow-flowing streams across Puerto Rico where nymphs develop amongst substrate and vegetation. During territorial flights males of this species aggressively chase intruders from their prominent perching spots up to 10m high in surrounding tree branches or tall reeds. This vivid coloration assists the male in attracting mates from a distance over open water. Overall the Ruby Meadowhawk is an elegant dragonfly with showy males defending airspace actively through the summer months.

14. Eight-spotted Skimmer

The Eight-spotted Skimmer (Libellula forensis) is very similar in appearance and habits to its relative the Twelve-spotted Skimmer but with just eight pale yellow spots running down each side of its slender jet black abdomen. Males range from 35-45mm across the wings while females are marginally larger at 40-50mm. They inhabit open sunny ponds, lakes and marshes where ample territory exists to establish hunting paths through reed beds or over open water. Like all skimmers, both sexes are bold flyers that rapidly chase down other flying insects to feed on, from damselflies to mosquitoes and gnats. Breeding males defend mating areas fiercely, occasionally engaging in aerial dogfights with intruders. Overall the Eight-spotted Skimmer is a common summer sight across many of Puerto Rico’s wetland ecosystems where their black and yellow patterns are most noticeable.

15. Blue Corporal

The Blue Corporal (Ladona exusta) earns its name through the beautiful glossy electric blue coloration of its thorax and first three abdominal segments. Males have a wingspan averaging 35-40mm while females measure slightly larger at 38-45mm. As habitat generalists, they inhabit a variety of sunny and lightly shaded marshes, ponds and slow moving streams where hunting territory exists along shorelines or over open water. Blue Corporals are aerial acrobats known to change directions rapidly in flight to pursue passing insect prey through reedbeds or trees. Males aggressively defend small territories near breeding zones. Females carefully deposit egg clusters attached to vegetation trailing their abdomen underwater. Their vibrant electric blue “corporate” patterning easily distinguishes this dragonfly from a distance as they patrol across Puerto Rico’s wetlands.

16. Blue Dasher

The Blue Dasher (Pachydiplax longipennis) is a mid-sized but very common dragonfly inhabiting most marshes, ponds and slow moving streams across Puerto Rico. They get their name from the striking metallic blue or greenish coloration of their thorax. Males have a wingspan around 40-45mm while females range 45-50mm. Their colors can vary from light blue to dark blue-green depending on location and age. One distinguishing feature is the darker blue stripes running down each side of their abdomen. Both males and females are highly territorial with powerful fast flight. They are often seen aggressively chasing other flying insects or patrolling territories near dense vegetation at the water’s edge. Blue Dashers complete their life cycle within a single year with larvae overwintering underwater before emerging as adults the following spring and summer months.

17. Eastern Pondhawk

The Eastern Pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis) is a small but abundant dragonfly observed all across Puerto Rico. As its name implies, it prefers a variety of small temporary and permanent ponds, ditches and marshes near forests and residential areas. Adults have thin bodies with a wingspan averaging 30-35mm for males and around 35-40mm for females. Their coloration can be quite variable from light green to dark brown/black on the thorax and abdomen depending on age and location. Perhaps their most distinguishing feature is the bright turquoise eyes and green/yellow stripes or spots on their sides. Often seen patrolling dense vegetation and traveling in small foraging groups, they are agile flyers. Both males and females are prolific hunters that actively capture small insects like gnats, mosquitoes and flies in flight or near the water’s surface. They complete their entire life cycle within 2-3 months.

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