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Ischnura erratica
Swift Forktail
Family: Coenagrionidae
Species account author: Robert Cannings.
Extracted from Introducing the Dragonflies of British Columbia and the Yukon (2002)


© Jeremy Gatten     (Photo ID #10944)


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Distribution of Ischnura erratica in British Columbia.
(Click on the map to view a larger version.)
Source: (for the static map) RBCM and BCCDC 2004 ©

Species Information


Our largest forktail. Blue on the tip of the abdomen extends to segment 7. The thorax has blue sides and blue or green stripes on top; female’s thorax is sometimes green or orange instead of blue. Male’s appendages shown in figure. Length: ♂ ♀ 32 mm.

Flight Period

B.C., late April to late August (mostly in May and June).

Genus Description

Found almost everywhere dragonflies live, though mostly absent from boreal habitats; distribution in North America is decidedly southern. B.C. has four species, but only the two most widespread – the Pacific Forktail and the Western Forktail – are encountered often. None are found in the Yukon. Male forktails in B.C. are mostly black, blue and green. The abdomen is black above and has a blue tip; the last segment bears a distinct forked projection on top, which gives the group its English name. Females may be the same colour as males or may have a tan, pink or orange thorax when immature; they may darken with extensive pruinescence as they age. Larvae are similar to those of bluets, but the gills usually have long, tapered tips.


Family Description

Small damselflies that normally perch with wings closed above the abdomen. Most males are blue marked with black, but the main colour may be green, yellow, orange, red or purple. Females often have two colour forms per species, one similar to the male (usually blue). Females lay eggs in the tissues of water plants, sometimes completely submerging themselves for a long time while laying. Larave are not as long as spreadwing larave and have short labia, unstalked at the base. There are six genera and 18 species of pond damsels in our region. The American Bluets (Enallagma) and forktails (Ischnura) are the most common groups.
Field Notes

Lives around ponds, slow streams and lakes, including those in peatlands. Abundant in some locations, but not as common as Pacific or Western forktails.


Pacific Coastal. In B.C. only in the lowlands of the south coast.

Status Information

Origin StatusProvincial StatusBC List
(Red Blue List)
NativeS4YellowNot Listed

BC Ministry of Environment: BC Species and Ecosystems Explorer--the authoritative source for conservation information in British Columbia.