Dragonfly Identification: The Pennants

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picture of a female Marl Pennant dragonfly, part of the Skimmer dragonfly identification guide

Four different Libellulidae genera go by the common name pennant. Two of those genera, Metallic Pennants (Genus Idiataphe) and Genus Macrodiplax, produce one hit wonders, or one single species in the United States.

The top picture shows a female Marl Pennant. Males have an almost all black body. They are fairly common in many southern states from Florida west to California. The only other Macrodiplax species is a subtropical species from Australia and Asia.

Four Metallic Pennant (Genus Idiataphe) species get categorized as new world Pennants. While they inhabit areas as far south as Argentina, only one species, the Metallic Pennant (Idiataphe cubensis) can be occasionally found in the southern most areas of Florida and Texas.

Dragonfly Identification: Celithemis Pennants


picture of a red male Calico Pennant dragonfly
Most dragonfly enthusiasts associate the Pennants with the eight species in the Celithemis genus. Especially because of their color and abundance. All eight species inhabit areas east of the Rocky Mountains.

The stand out red and yellow coloration of the Calico Pennants makes them difficult to misidentify in the field. Males like the one shown in the picture have the red coloration.

picture of a yellow female Calico Pennant dragonfly
Female Calico Pennants have the yellow coloration. They are common in the Eastern and Midwestern United States.

picture of a  Halloween Pennant dragonfly
The colorful orange wings of the Halloween Pennant catch the eye of many photographers. In some southern states such as Florida, they fly year round. As one moved north, their flight dates decrease to being a typical summer dragonfly.

picture of a male Banded Pennant dragonfly
Banded Pennants (Celithemis fasciata) are one of the less colorful pennant species. The spotted wings could mean they could be initially mistaken for a twelve-spotted skimmer. Their abdomen is much thinner and the spot pattern on the wings does differ. Females have a distinct row of yellow spots down the top of the abdomen.

picture of an Ornate Pennant dragonfly, Credit Pondhawk, Flickr
Ornate Pennants are primarily a Southeast species. Mature males and females have a similar red and yellow body spots as the Calico Pennants. However, they also have the nickname Faded Pennants, suggesting that the coloration stands out less with the Ornate compared to the Calico Pennants.

Brachymesia Pennants


picture of a  Red-tailed Pennant dragonfly
Three species of Brachymesia Pennants also inhabit the southern areas of the United States. As a group, they are less flashy looking than the North America Celithemis Pennants.

The picture shows a Red-tailed Pennant (Brachymesia furcata). The red abdomen with the two dark spots on the tail might initially indicate a saddlebags species. However, note that the amber coloration in the wings is much reduced to a small patches close to the abdomen. The thorax is also brown.

Red-tailed Pennants can be found in many of the southern states from California to Florida.

picture of a  Four-spotted Pennant dragonfly
The single spot on each wing along with white stigmas serve as the most useful field ID clues for the Four-spotted Pennant (Brachymesia gravida).