Rambur's Forktail

Ischnura ramburii (Selys, 1850)

Ischnura ramburii
Erin L. White

Insecta (Insects)
Coenagrionidae (Pond Damsels)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Imperiled or Vulnerable in New York - Very vulnerable, or vulnerable, to disappearing from New York, due to rarity or other factors; typically 6 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. More information is needed to assign either S2 or S3.
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?

Rambur's Forktail often perches on bare ground and flies along open shorelines, while most forktail species have a different behavior, finding shelter in low, dense vegetation along shores (Lam 2004).

State Ranking Justification

In New York (close to the northern extent of its range), Rambur's Forktails have been confirmed from Richmond, Kings, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk counties since the 1990s (New York Natural Heritage Program 2010). Older records are from Staten Island and Suffolk County prior to the 1990s (Donnelly 1999). New locations in recent years may be due to increased survey effort rather than a population increase or expansion.

Short-term Trends

No estimation of population size for this species has been made based on observations from the late 1990s in Richmond, Kings, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk counties (New York Natural Heritage 2010). General reports of observations made prior to this include locations in Richmond and Suffolk counties, but information prior to the late 1990s is limited (Donnelly 2004). Therefore, any new location information on Rambur's Forktail in New York may reflect heightened interest in surveying for this species rather than a population increase or a range expansion (NYS DEC 2005).

Long-term Trends

Recent observations have been noted in Richmond, Kings, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk counties in the late 1990s. Long-term information regarding population size is not available prior to the late 1990s (New York Natural Heritage Program 2010). Since observations are fairly recent, 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 impact Rambur's Forktail populations (NYS DEC 2005). Such threats might include roadway and agricultural run-off, ditching and filling, eutrophication, changes in dissolved oxygen content, and development near their habitats (NYS DEC 2005). Groundwater withdrawal is a potential threat in lentic habitats, as are invasive plant species replacing native plants required for oviposition (New York Natural Heritage Program 2010). Both emergence rates and/or species ranges may shift for odonate species as a result of climate change (Kalkman et al. 2008).

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Any efforts to reduce roadway and agricultural run-off, eutrophication, development of upland borders and resulting increased groundwater withdrawal, and ditching and filling activities should be considered when managing for this species (NYS DEC 2005).

Research Needs

Further research is needed to define the distribution and population size of the Rambur's Forktail. In addition, 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 (NYS DEC 2005).



In the northeast, Rambur's Forktail is found at coastal plain ponds, lakes, marshes, and slow-flowing rivers or streams, often with brackish water (Nikula et al. 2003, Lam 2004).

Associated Ecological Communities

  • 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.
  • Coastal salt pond (guide)
    A community inhabiting marine shoreline lakes or ponds formed by sandspits that close off a lagoon or bay. The water typically averages brackish or slightly brackish over long periods of time, but may range rapidly from fresh to saline.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Seaside Dragonlet (Erythrodiplax berenice)
  • Citrine Forktail (Ischnura hastata)
  • Fragile Forktail (Ischnura posita)
  • Needham's Skimmer (Libellula needhami) (guide)


New York State Distribution

New York is close to the northern extent of the Rambur's Forktail's range). It has been confirmed from Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, Nassau, and Suffolk counties since the 1990s (New York Natural Heritage Program 2010). Older records were from Staten Island and Suffolk county prior to the 1990s (Donnelly 1999). There is an unvouchered record from Cattaraugus County that should be explored with further survey effort.

Global Distribution

Ischnura ramburii has been documented from northern South America northward through Central America and Islands in the Carribean, the Hawaiian Islands, and the southern United States eastward to the U.S. Atlantic coast and north to Maine (Donnelly 2004, Abbott 2010).

Best Places to See

  • Unqua River (Nassau County)
  • Jones Beach State Park (Nassau County)

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

Ischnura ramburii males have green shoulder stripes on the tops of the thorax and pale green sides. The abdomen is black with pale rings. Abdominal segment 8 is usually all blue and blue is present on the sides of segments 9-10. Postocular spots are small, round, and blue. Females have three color forms: male-like, orange, and mature olive. The male-like form has more bluish tinting to pale areas than males, but is otherwise similarly patterned. The orange form has an orange thorax, no shoulder stripes, and a broad, black mid-dorsal (top) stripe. The base of the abdomen is orange in this form and the rest of the abdomen is black (Nikula et al. 2003). The mature olive form has an olive-sided thorax and abdominal segments 1 and 2 are mostly pale, with the rest of the segments black on top (Lam 2004).

Best Time to See

New York records from the 1990s to present indicate a flight season from June 14 to September 2 (New York Natural Heritage Program 2010). An unvouchered observation was made on 9/14/2009 and older records indicate the species can be observed into October (Donnelly 1999). The species flies from June 8 through November 1 in New Jersey (Bangma & Barlow 2010).

  • Present
  • Reproducing

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

Similar Species

  • Furtive Forktail (Ischnura prognata)
    Segment 9 of the male Furtive Forktail is all blue, while only segment 8 is blue in the male Rambur's Forktail.
  • Eastern Forktail (Ischnura verticalis)
    The Eastern Forktail is smaller than Rambur's, and the male is blue on the top of abdominal segments 8-9, with green postocular spots. The orange female of I. verticalis has dark shoulder stripes, while I. ramburii lacks these (Nikula et al. 2003).

Rambur's Forktail Images


Rambur's Forktail
Ischnura ramburii (Selys, 1850)

  • Kingdom Animalia
    • Phylum Arthropoda (Mandibulates)
      • Class Insecta (Insects)
        • Order Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies)
          • Family Coenagrionidae (Pond Damsels)

Additional Resources


Abbott, J.C. 2007. OdonataCentral: An online resource for the odonata of North America. Austin, Texas. Available at http://odonatacentral.com (accessed February 28, 2007).

Bangma J. and Barlow A. 2010. NJODES; The dragonflies and damselflies of New Jersey.<http://www.njodes.com/Speciesaccts/species.asp>.

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. 2004b. Distribution of North American Odonata. Part II: Macromiidae, Corduliidae and Libellulidae. Bulletin of American Odonatology 8(1): 1-32.

Kalkman, V. J., V. Clausnitzer, K. B. Dijkstra, A. G. Orr, D. R. Paulson, and J. van Tol. 2008. Global diversity of dragonflies (Odonata) in freshwater. Hydrobiologia 595:351-363.

Lam, E. 2004. Damselflies of the northeast: A guide to the species of eastern Canada and the northeastern United States. Biodiversity Books, Forest Hills, New York. 96 pp.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2010. Biotics database. New York Natural Heritage Program. New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Albany, NY.

New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. New York Natural Heritage Program Databases. 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: January 4, 2019

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Ischnura ramburii. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/ramburs-forktail/. Accessed February 26, 2024.