Black-tailed skimmer

Black-tailed Skimmer male

Male Black-tailed Skimmer ©Scott Petrek

Black-tailed Skimmer female

Female Black-tailed Skimmer ©Neil Phillips

Black-tailed skimmer

Scientific name: Orthetrum cancellatum
The Black-tailed skimmer is a narrow-bodied dragonfly that can be seen flying low over the bare gravel and mud around flooded gravel pits and reservoirs. It is on the wing from May to August.

Species information


Length: 4.4-4.9cm

Conservation status


When to see

May to August


The Black-tailed skimmer is a medium-sized, straight-sided, fairly narrow-bodied dragonfly. It is on the wing from May to August and is commonly found in flooded gravel pits and reservoirs, where it flies low over the water before landing on the bare shore to rest in the sun. The larvae of Black-tailed skimmers can take two to three years to mature. Once they emerge from the water, they may travel some distance over land to find a suitable site to undergo metamorphosis. After mating, mature females lay their eggs by hovering over the water, dipping the tip of their abdomen in, and dropping their eggs on to vegetation below the surface.

How to identify

The male Black-tailed skimmer has a grey thorax and a powder-blue abdomen with yellow spots along the sides and a black tip. The female is yellowy-brown with two black stripes running the length of the body. There are several medium-sized, pale blue dragonflies that can be confused. This species can be distinguished from the others by its narrow abdomen with black tip and yellow spots along the side.


Found in Southern and Central England, and South Wales.

Did you know?

The Black-tailed skimmer breeds in very large numbers in newly flooded gravel pits; it is one of a number of species that may be taken by Hobbies frequenting these waterbodies.

How people can help

The Wildlife Trusts work with planners, water companies and landowners to help make our man-made waterways and waterbodies as good for wildlife as they are for people. By working together, we can create Living Landscapes: networks of habitats stretching across town and country that allow wildlife to move about freely and people to enjoy the benefits of nature. Support this greener vision for the future by joining your local Wildlife Trust.