This is a small dragonfly that spends long periods perched on vegetation, walls, fences and even garden canes and washing lines. It suddently darts out from its perch in pursuit of a fly and often returns to the same perch.
It is a very common species in England, Wales and Ireland, less common in Scotland.
Only mature male common darters are red. Females and newly-emerged males are a pale greeny-brown colour.
The common darter can be distinguished from the similar coloured, but much smaller, large red damselfly by its thick abdomen and the way it holds its wings out at right angles to its body in typical dragonfly style. Its behaviour is another useful identification point.
The ruddy darter is very similar to the common darter. Males are a deeper red and their abdomen swells towards the tip.
What does it eat?
The larvae are aquatic and eat anything small enough for them to catch. Adults eat just about anything they can catch, mainly flying insects.
When will I see it?
This is one of the last dragonflies of the year on the wing and can be seen from mid June right through into November in some sheltered parts. Peak numbers are from late July through September.
Where will I see it?
This is a very common species in a variety of habitats and it regularly visits gardens, even those without water.