Meadowhawks

A large insect is perched on a twig while eating another insect.
An autumn meadowhawk dragonfly eats a mosquito. Most meadowhawks are difficult to ID, but the autumn meadowhawks are the only meadowhawks in our area that have yellow legs.

NPS/Gordon Dietzman

Introduction

These diminutive dragonflies (1-1.5") are common throughout the Mississippi National River and Recreation Area, but the eight meadowhawk species that probably exist within the Park are often difficult to identify down to the species level. Scientists often use microscopes to determine which species they have in hand. Because identification is so difficult, we group them together on this page.

Because of their size, they are sometimes hunted by larger dragonflies, which may account for their perching either in the grass or on twigs close to the ground. Surprisingly, they are easily approached for observation or photographing.

Most of the adult males are brilliant red, although some, such as the black meadowhawk are very dark. Females and immatures are yellowish or golden as shown to the right.

While most dragonflies disappear by late fall, meadowhawks are often spotted very late in the year. In one year one of our rangers spotted several on November 2 near Hastings, MN.

Watch Behaviors

Meadowhawks are easy to approach when they are perched, as long as the observer moves slowly and carefully to avoid spooking their subject. Watch their heads swivel up and down as they follow the path of nearby flying insects. When they spot a suitable prey insect, often a mosquito, they will dart out from their perch, capture the hapless insect, and then return to the perch. Move in close and watch them eat their meal.

Identification

Key ID Features: Medium-sized dragonflies. Adult males are red and black; young males and females are orange or golden.

Present in Park: June through September. Very common; look for them in prairies and patches of tall grass located near water.

Habitat: Most meadowhawks are found near where they emerge, usually very slow streams, marshes, and small ponds.

Last updated: December 4, 2017

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

111 E. Kellogg Blvd., Suite 105
Saint Paul, MN 55101

Phone:

(651) 293-0200
This is the general phone line at the Mississippi River Visitor Center. Please leave a voicemail if we miss your call and expect a return call within 1 day, often sooner.

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