Spine-crowned Clubtail

Hylogomphus abbreviatus Hagen in Selys, 1878

Thomas Donnelly

Insecta (Insects)
Gomphidae (Clubtails)
State Protection
Not Listed
Not listed or protected by New York State.
Federal Protection
Not Listed
State Conservation Status Rank
Critically Imperiled in New York - Especially vulnerable to disappearing from New York due to extreme rarity or other factors; typically 5 or fewer populations or locations in New York, very few individuals, very restricted range, very few remaining acres (or miles of stream), and/or very steep declines.
Global Conservation Status Rank
Apparently Secure globally - Uncommon in the world but not rare; usually widespread, but may be rare in some parts of its range; possibly some cause for long-term concern due to declines or other factors.


Did you know?

There are at least 1,000 species of Clubtails worldwide (Dunkle 2000).

State Ranking Justification

The Spine-crowned Clubtail is known to occur in eight counties in New York State (Donnelly 2004, New York Natural Heritage Program 2007). Population estimates have not been made. This species is secretive in its habits, and it is probably more common than records indicate. Further survey efforts may result in the identification of additional populations or range expansions, and may enable population sizes to be estimated.

Short-term Trends

No estimate of population size for the Spine-crowned Clubtail has been made based on observations between the 1990s and 2002 (Donnelly 2004, New York Natural Heritage Program 2007). Information prior to this time frame is limited. Therefore, any new location information on the Spine-crowned Clubtail 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

Recent observations of Spine-crowned Clubtails have been made between the 1990s and 2002 in Broome, Chenango, Orange, Delaware, and Sullivan counties, and the species is also known to occur in Tompkins, Steuben, and Westchester counties based on early observations (Donnelly 2004, New York Natural Heritage Program 2007). Since there is limited historical information 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 Spine-crowned Clubtail populations (Holst 2005). Such threats may include roadway and agricultural run-off, industrial pollution, the building of dams, recreational boating, and development near their habitats (Natural Heritage Endangered Species Program 2003, Holst 2005).

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Any efforts to reduce roadway and agricultural run-off, industrial pollution, flow manipulation, development of upland stream borders, and contamination of fast-flowing streams should be considered when managing for this species (Natural Heritage Endangered Species Program 2003, Holst 2005).

Research Needs

Further research is needed to define the distribution and population size of the Spine-crowned Clubtail. In addition, research is required to understand the habitat requirements, life history, and threats to this species, and to create appropriate management guidelines for its persistence in known locations (Holst 2005).



Spine-crowned Clubtails inhabit clean, medium to large streams and rivers with sandy or rocky substrates containing muck deposits (Dunkle 2000, Natural Heritage Endangered Species Program 2003, Nikula et al. 2003). Larvae are aquatic, while adults are terrestrial and are found in habitats surrounding streams and rivers.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Confined river* (guide)
    The aquatic community of relatively large, fast flowing sections of streams with a moderate to gentle gradient.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Extra-striped Snaketail (Ophiogomphus anomalus) (guide)
  • Rapids Clubtail (Phanogomphus quadricolor) (guide)


New York State Distribution

The Spine-crowned Clubtail is known from eight counties in southeastern and central portions of New York State (Donnelly 2004, New York Natural Heritage Program 2007).

Global Distribution

The Spine-crowned Clubtail is distributed in New Brunswick, Canada and across the northeastern United States southwest to Pennsylvania and south to South Carolina (Dunkle 2000). It has a total known range from New Brunswick, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia (Abbott 2007).

Best Places to See

  • Upper Delaware River (Sullivan County)

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

As their name suggests, Clubtails have an enlarged tip on the end of their abdomens, giving them a club-like appearance. Adult Spine-crowned Clubtails are stocky, 1.3 to 1.5 inches long, and have a yellow face. They have black legs and gray-blue to green eyes that are separated dorsally. Males have a dark-brown thorax with thick, yellow, dorsal (top) stripes forming a broken "U". Their sides are yellowish-gray with two narrow, black stripes. Spine-crowned Clubtails have a black abdomen with yellow appearing on segments 1-7 and yellow lateral (side) spots on segments 8 and 9. Females are similar in appearance, but have a less developed club, more yellow on their abdominal sides, and a dorsal spot on segment 10. Male terminal appendages and female subgenital plates are distinctive from other Gomphus species when examined under magnification.


Female Clubtails oviposit (lay eggs) by tapping the tips of their abdomens onto the surface of swift-flowing water while simultaneously releasing eggs (Mead 2003, Nikula et al. 2003). Male Spine-crowned Clubtails hover over riffles and perch on rocks in streams and rivers (Nikula et al. 2003). This species is extremely elusive in behavior (Donnelly 1999).


Spine-crowned Clubtail larvae feed on smaller aquatic invertebrates and adults feed on insects which they capture in flight.

Best Time to See

Adult Spine-crowned Clubtails have been found in New York from May through June, but could probably also be found in July (Nikula et al. 2003, New York Natural Heritage Program 2007). They are known to be the most active in late afternoon, but males could begin patrolling habitats in mid-morning (Dunkle 2000).

  • Present
  • Reproducing

The time of year you would expect to find Spine-crowned Clubtail present and reproducing in New York.

Similar Species

  • Mustached Clubtail (Hylogomphus adelphus)
    The Mustached Clubtail has black facial stripes whereas the Spine-crowned Clubtail lacks these markings (Dunkle 2000, Nikula et al. 2003). The Mustached male's club is mostly black compared to the yellow lateral (side) spots on the Spine-crowned male's club (Nikula et al. 2003).
  • Green-faced Clubtail (Hylogomphus viridifrons) (guide)
    Female Green-faced Clubtails have an all-black abdominal segment 10, while the Spine-crowned adult female has a dorsal (top) yellow spot on this segment.

Spine-crowned Clubtail Images


Spine-crowned Clubtail
Hylogomphus abbreviatus Hagen in Selys, 1878

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


  • Gomphus abbreviatus Hagen in Selys, 1878

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).

Donnelly, T.W. 1992. The Odonata of New York. Bulletin of American Odonatology, 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.

Natural Heritage Endangered Species Program. 2003. Spine-crowned clubtail (Gomphus abbreviatus). Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, Westborough, MA. Available http://www.state.ma.us/dfwele/dfw/nhesp (accessed April 19, 2007).

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.

Walker, E.M. 1958. The odonata of Canada and Alaska. Vol 2. The Anisoptera-four families. Univ. Toronto Press 318 pp.

Ware, J.L., E. Pilgrim, M.L. May, T.W. Donnelly, and K. Tennessen. 2016. Phylogenetic relationships of North American Gomphidae and their close relatives. Systematic Entomology 2016:1-10.


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: October 18, 2007

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Hylogomphus abbreviatus. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/spine-crowned-clubtail/. Accessed July 19, 2024.