Working to conserve dragonflies and their wetland habitats

Dragonfly and Damselfly Identification Help

Have you spotted a dragonfly or damselfly and need help to identify it?  The following tips should help you to identify most dragonflies and damselflies to species.


If you do not already have a identification book for dragonflies we strongly recommend you obtain one. ID books are a brilliant resources for improving your dragonfly identification. They will also cover the more difficult aspects of dragonfly ID, such as immature and female colour variants. A range of dragonfly books can be found in our shop.

This page does not currently include most vagrant and migratory species. For these species visit our species profile pages.

Is it a dragonfly or a damselfly?


Dragonfly  (suborder = Anisoptera)

Wings open at rest

Eyes touching at top of the head

Flight strong and purposeful

Damselfly  (suborder = Zygoptera)

Wings closed at rest

Eyes not touching at top of head

Flight weak and fluttering


These are general trends – there are always exceptions to the rule!



Choose which group most closely matches your specimen and then click on the image for more information. 

Hawkers and Similar Species

Darters, Chasers and Skimmers


Generally dark with bright spots or stripes. Some mostly brown. Can be brightly coloured with a thick black mid-line stripe. Never with dark wing marks other than the wingspots (rectangular marks at the tip). Generally large, robust but thin bodied.

Generally with a blue, red, yellow or brown body or a combination of some of these colours. Sometimes with black markings. Some with additional dark marks on the wings. Generally smaller and stout bodied.

Almost entirely emerald green coloured, usually metallic. Often bright green eyes. Sometimes with bronze tints.




Choose which group most closely matches your specimen and then click on the image for more information. 


Largely bright blue and black


females variable

Pale blue or white with black markings


Females variable

Largely green


with brown or blue markings at head and tip

Largely red


Females variable

Metallic green-blue


with large, coloured wings


Commonly seen species and ID tips

Please note the flight periods are a guide only and will vary across the range from the southern England to northern Scotland.


Large Red Damselfly – A bright red damselfly with black legs and red eyes.  Some individuals may have yellow on their thorax and abdomen. 

Often the earliest dragonfly to be seen in the year. 

Flight period: April - September

Large Red Damselfly - male

Broad-bodied Chaser – These are chunky dragonflies. 

Males are bright blue with yellow down their sides. 

Females are yellow-brown with yellow down the sides – these can look like hornets in flight. 

All four wings have a black mark at the base.

Flight period: April - August


Broad-bodied Chaser - male

Common Blue Damselfly -The side of the thorax does not have a short black line ('spur') on it.  

Males are blue and have a club sign at the top of their abdomen. 

Females are blue or dull green and have a spur on the underside of the tip of their abdomen. 

Flight period: April - October

Common Blue Damselfly - male

Azure Damselfly – A U-shaped mark on S2.

The side of the thorax has a short black line on it.

  The male is blue and black and has a ‘U’ marking at the top of its abdomen. 

The female is easily confused with other species so it is best to double check. 

Flight period: May – September

Azure Damselfly - male

 Emerald Damselfly  – These can be easily confused with other Emerald damselflies, so take a photo to be sure.

Emeralds have a metallic green body with bule or brown markings and hold their wings half open when resting.

They have a dark wing-spot. Other species of Emerald Damselfly have variously coloured wing spots.

Flight Period: July-September (May-October)

Brown Hawker – A large brown dragonfly with brown wings. 

Flight period: June - October

Southern Hawker – Look for the ‘headlights’ on their thorax behind the eyes,  the green triangle just below the wings and the three bars (rather than paired spots) at the end of their abdomens. 

Flight period: June - October

Southern Hawker - male

Common Darter – A small dragonfly with yellow stripes down its legs. 

Males are bright orange-red.

Females are yellow and darken with age.  Some individuals have black on them.

Flight period: May - November

Blue-tailed Damselfly - A black abdomen and variously coloured thorax and tip.

Males: head and tip blue.

Females: head and tip can be blue or one of 5 colour forms. 

Migrant Hawker - Small to no shouler stripes. A yellow T-shape on S2 (top of abdomen).

Male: black and blue with yellowy thorax stripes

Female: brown and yellow.


The markings on each individual can vary so it is best to check a few identification features before you reach your final verdict on the species.



Species photos and fact sheets



Still Stuck?


Where did you see it?

We can help you identify dragonflies observed in Britain.  If your sighting was from abroad the following sites may help you:

African Dragonflies - AllOdonata with Continent set to Africa
American Dragonflies- AllOdonata with Continent set to North & South America
Asian Dragonflies - AllOdonata with Continent set to Asia

There are helpful further sites on our Links page.

Submit an ID enquiry


If you have a photo of the dragonfly, this will help us to identify it.  Please tell us both where and when you took the photograph.

Advice for dragonfly photographers

Many photographers focus on the eyes of dragonflies, which means that the rest of the insect is often out-of-focus. Unfortunately, such images often cannot be identified because the critical identification features aren’t visible or are too fuzzy. Please try to get more than one image, taken from directly above and from the side of your subject.  If your image file size is above 5MB you can upload it to a publicly-viewable site like Flickr and then send us a link.