Needham's Skimmer

Libellula needhami Westfall, 1943

Needham's Skimmer
Jesse W. Jaycox

Insecta (Insects)
Libellulidae (Skimmers)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Vulnerable in New York - Vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to rarity or other factors (but not currently imperiled); typically 21 to 80 populations or locations in New York, few individuals, restricted range, few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or recent and widespread declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Secure globally - Common in the world; widespread and abundant (but may be rare in some parts of its range).


Did you know?

This species of dragonfly was named after James Needham, a famous American entomologist (Dunkle 2000).

State Ranking Justification

Needham's Skimmer is known to occur in nine locations in Richmond, Rockland, Putnam (two locations), and Suffolk counties since 1997 (New York Natural Heritage Program 2007). The species is also known to occur in Kings, Orange, and Westchester counties (Donnelly 1999). Population estimates have not been determined. Further survey efforts may result in the identification of additional populations or range expansions and may enable population sizes to be determined.

Short-term Trends

No estimate of population size has been made for Needham's Skimmer based on observations from 1997 to present (New York Natural Heritage Program 2007). Information prior to this time frame is limited. Therefore, any new location information on Needham's Skimmer in New York may reflect heightened interest in surveying for this species rather than a population increase or a range expansion (Holst 2005).

Long-term Trends

Nine recent observations of Needham's Skimmers have been made in Putnam, Richmond, Rockland, and Suffolk counties since 1997 (New York Natural Heritage Program 2007). The species is also known to occur in Kings, Orange, and Westchester counties (Donnelly 1999). Since there is limited historical information, few recent records, and the full extent and size of the populations have not been determined, long-term trends are unclear.

Conservation and Management


Any activity which might lead to water contamination or the alteration of natural hydrology could affect Needham's Skimmer populations. Such threats might include "...ditching, filling, eutrophication...", agricultural run-off or other chemical contamination, increases in sedimentation, and changes in dissolved oxygen content (Holst 2005).

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Any measures to reduce water contamination or hydrological alteration such as chemical contamination from agricultural run-off should be considered when managing for this species (Holst 2005).

Research Needs

Further research is required to understand the habitat requirements and threats to this species, and to create appropriate management guidelines for its persistence in known locations (Holst 2005).



Needham's Skimmer is a coastal species that inhabits ponds, lakes, tidal river areas, and brackish wetlands in New York State (Dunkle 2000, New York Natural Heritage Program 2007, Nikula et al. 2003). Larvae are aquatic and found in the water during this lifestage, whereas adults are terrestrial and are found in habitats surrounding ponds, lakes, and brackish wetlands.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Brackish intertidal mudflats (guide)
    A sparsely vegetated community, characterized by low-growing, rosette-leaved aquatics. The community occurs on exposed intertidal mudflats where water salinity ranges from 0.5 to 18.0 ppt. This community is best developed where mudflats are nearly level so that broad expanses are exposed at low tide. The rosette-leaved aquatics are completely submerged at high tide, and they are usually coated with mud.
  • Brackish tidal marsh (guide)
    A marsh community that occurs where water salinity ranges from 0.5 to 18.0 ppt, and water is less than 2 m (6 ft) deep at high tide. The vegetation in a brackish tidal marsh is dense and dominated by tall grass-like plants.
  • Coastal plain pond* (guide)
    The aquatic community of the permanently flooded portion of a coastal plain pond with seasonally, and annually fluctuating water levels. These are shallow, groundwater-fed ponds that occur in kettle-holes or shallow depressions in the outwash plains south of the terminal moraines of Long Island, and New England. A series of coastal plain ponds are often hydrologically connected, either by groundwater, or sometimes by surface flow in a small coastal plain stream.
  • Tidal river (guide)
    The aquatic community of a river under the influence of daily lunar tides. We restrict this community to the continuously flooded portions of the river where plants do not grow out of the water. A deepwater zone has depths averaging more than 2 m (6 ft) at low tide. Salinities at any one place in the river may fluctuate as the tides flow in and out.

* probable association but not confirmed.


New York State Distribution

Six recent observations of Needham's Skimmers have been made in Putnam, Richmond, Rockland, and Suffolk counties since 1997 (New York Natural Heritage Program 2007). The species is also known to occur in Kings, Orange, and Westchester counties (Donnelly 1999).

Global Distribution

Needham's Skimmer is distributed across Quintana Roo, Mexico, Cuba, the Bahamas, and the eastern coastal United States including Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida (including the Florida Keys), Georgia, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Virginia (Abbott 2007, Dunkle 2000).

Best Places to See

  • Brackish marshes (Putnam County)

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

Adult Needham's Skimmers are about 2.1 inches long with reddish-brown eyes. Adult males have a bright red face, a reddish-brown thorax, and a bright reddish-orange abdomen with a black dorsal (top) stripe (Dunkle 2000). Their posterior (rear) wing veins do not become orange, as with Golden-winged Skimmers (Libellula auripennis). The stigma (a blood-filled blister near the tip of the wing) is red. Females and immature males have a brown face and their thorax is brown dorsally with a pale middle stripe and the sides of the thorax are pale. They have a yellow face, the front half of their wings are tinged yellow, and they have a yellow abdomen with a black dorsal stripe (Nikula et al. 2003).


Adults of both sexes of Needham's Skimmer are known to forage in marshes in coastal areas. "Males are territorial, and perch horizontally or obliquely from emergent or shoreline vegetation" (Nikula et al. 2003). This is a more coastal species than the Golden-winged Skimmer, which is believed to outcompete it in most habitats (Dunkle 2000).


Needham's Skimmer larvae feed on smaller aquatic invertebrates and adults feed on insects which they capture in flight.

Best Time to See

Adult Needham's Skimmers have been found in New York in July and August, but could possibly be seen in late June and early September as well (Nikula et al. 2003, New York Natural Heritage Program 2007).

  • Present
  • Reproducing

The time of year you would expect to find Needham's Skimmer present and reproducing in New York.

Similar Species

  • Golden-winged Skimmer (Libellula auripennis) (guide)
    The abdomen and face of the male Libellula needhami is more red than that of the Golden-winged Skimmer (Dunkle 2000). In addition, the tibia (or middle segment) of the hind legs are pale brown on the Needham's Skimmer and black on the Golden-winged Skimmer. The posterior (rear) half of the wings are suffused with orange-yellow on the Golden-winged Skimmer with an orange-yellow leading edge basally, while the anterior (front) portion of the wings on Needham's Skimmer are red-orange with a brownish leading edge basally (Nikula et at. 2003).

Needham's Skimmer Images


Needham's Skimmer
Libellula needhami Westfall, 1943

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Arthropoda (Mandibulates)
      • Class Insecta (Insects)
        • Order Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies)
          • Family Libellulidae (Skimmers)

Additional Resources


Abbott, J.C. 2007. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the odonata of North America. Austin, Texas. Available at

Donnelly, T. W. 1992. The odonata of New York State. Bulletin of American Odonatology. 1(1):1-27.

Donnelly, T.W. 1999. The dragonflies and damselflies of New York. Prepared for the 1999 International Congress of Odonatology and First Symposium of the Worldwide Dragonfly Association. July 11-16, 1999. Colgate University, Hamilton, New York. 39 pp.

Donnelly, T.W. 2004. The Odonata of New York State. Unpublished data. Binghamton, NY.

Dunkle, S.W. 2000. Dragonflies through binoculars: A field guide to dragonflies of North America. Oxford University Press: 266 pp.

Mead, K. 2003. Dragonflies of the North Woods. Kollath-Stensaas Publishing, Duluth, MN. 2003 pp.

Needham, J.G., M.J. Westfall, Jr., and M.L. May. 2000. Dragonflies of North America. Revised edition. Scientific Publishers, Gainesville, Florida. 939 pp.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2007. Biotics Database. Albany, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. Albany, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. No date. New York dragonfly and damselfly survey database. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.

New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. 2005. Comprehensive Wildlife Conservation Strategy Planning Database. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.

Nikula, B., J.L. Loose, and M.R. Burne. 2003. A field guide to the dragonflies and damselflies of Massachusetts. Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program, Westborough, MA. 197 pp.


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: December 5, 2007

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Libellula needhami. Available from: Accessed May 26, 2024.