Common Whitetail, Plathemis lydia

The common whitetail (Plathemis lydia), also known as the long-tailed skimmer, is a species of dragonfly that can be found in North America. It can be seen in many areas, excluding those found at high elevations, near slow moving rivers, marshes, and still ponds. This species is active during different seasons depending upon the area of its range, with populations in California occurring between the months of April and September.

The common whitetail is a unique dragonfly, with males holding a broad body that reaches a length of about 1.9 inches. Males are white in color with brownish-black markings occurring on the wings, giving it a checkered appearance. Females are similar in appearance to the twelve-spotted skimmer, with a brown body and varying markings occurring along the wings, but females of this species are smaller and broader in shape and hold horizontally flowing abdominal stripes.

As is typical to perching dragonflies, the common whitetail can be seen perching in various areas of its habitat and occasionally on the ground. Males are known to hold territories that range in size between 32.8 and 98.4 feet along the shoreline. Males will patrol these areas, displaying a white marking on the underside of the abdomen as a warning to other males. Adults feed on small flying insects, while the aquatic nymphs consume insect larvae and small crayfish, among other small creatures. The nymphs are an important food source for many animals including birds, fish, and frogs.

Image Caption: Adult male Common Whitetail Dragonfly, Libellula lydia. Credit: Bruce Marlin/Wikipedia (CC BY-SA 2.5)