Tiger Spiketail

Cordulegaster erronea Hagen in Selys, 1878

Tiger Spiketail
Jesse W. Jaycox

Insecta (Insects)
Cordulegastridae (Spiketails)
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 35 known species of Spiketails worldwide, with four species known to occur in New York State (Nikula et al. 2003, New York Natural Heritage 2007).

State Ranking Justification

The Tiger Spiketail is known to occur in seven counties in New York State, with no population estimates determined. 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 this species has been made based on observations from five New York counties made in the mid-1990s to present (New York Natural Heritage Program 2007). General reports of observations made in the early 1990s include locations in two additional counties (Donnelly 2004), and information prior to this time frame is limited. Therefore, any new location information on the Tiger Spiketail 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

Two observations of the Tiger Spiketail have been made prior to the mid-1990s in Essex and Tompkins counties and recent observations from the mid-1990s to present have been made in Putnam, Westchester, Rockland, Schuyler, and Erie counties (Donnelly 2004, New York Natural Heritage Program 2007). Since the full extent and size of the populations have not been determined, long-term trends are unclear.

Conservation and Management


Any activity that might alter groundwater seepages could impact Tiger Spiketail populations, as seepage areas are key oviposition sites (Holst 2005). Such threats might include chemical contamination from agricultural run-off, changes in dissolved oxygen content, increases in sediment load, and the building of dams (Holst 2005).

Conservation Strategies and Management Practices

Any measures to reduce water contamination, agricultural run-off, siltation, and damming that would affect flow of springs and small stream seepage areas should be considered when managing for this species (Holst 2005).

Research Needs

Further research is needed to define the distribution and population size of the Tiger Spiketail. 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 (Holst 2005).



Tiger Spiketails inhabit coldwater streams, small spring trickles, or seeps in partial shade that are too small for fish where there is a constant, slight water flow and a non-silt substrate (Barlow 1995, Dunkle 2000, Nikula et al. 2003, Holst 2005). Larvae are aquatic and found in the water during this lifestage, whereas adults are terrestrial and are found in habitats surrounding streams, springs, and seeps.

Associated Ecological Communities

  • Spring*
    The aquatic community of very small, cold stream sources where the flow is perennial. Springs are characterized by water with constant cold temperature and are rich in dissolved oxygen.

* probable association but not confirmed.

Associated Species

  • Seepage Dancer (Argia bipunctulata)
  • Arrowhead Spiketail (Cordulegaster obliqua) (guide)
  • Gray Petaltail (Tachopteryx thoreyi) (guide)


New York State Distribution

The Tiger Spiketail is confirmed from locations in seven counties across New York State (Donnelly 2004, New York Natural Heritage Program 2007). While the full extent of the population has not been determined, this species is known to occur in small coldwater streams, spring trickles, or seeps in the Great Lakes and Lower New England / Northern Piedmont Ecoregions (Barlow 1995, Dunkle 2000, Nikula et al. 2003, Holst 2005, New York Natural Heritage Program 2007).

Global Distribution

The Tiger Spiketail is an uncommon species distributed across the northeastern United States south to Tennessee and west to Missouri (Dunkle 2000). It has a total known range from New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Lousiana, Georgia, Mississippi, Illinois, Michigan, and Ohio (Abbott 2007).

Best Places to See

  • Philipse Brook (Putnam County)

Identification Comments

Identifying Characteristics

Female dragonflies in the Spiketail family have an elongated ovipositor (a modified appendage used to pierce a substrate and lay eggs) that extends beyond the tip of their abdomen, giving them a spiked-tail appearance (Needham et al. 2000, Nikula et al. 2003). Tiger Spiketails are large (2.9 inches), blackish-brown dragonflies with yellow bands on their abdomens. They have short legs and their thorax has two wide, yellow lateral (side) stripes. They have pale, metallic green eyes and, like other spiketails, their eyes meet at one point on top of their heads. This species may be distinguished from other spiketails by its black coloration on the rear of the head behind the eyes. This area is mainly yellow on other species.


Spiketail larvae are aquatic and burrow tail first into the substrate of waters where they are found. They then cover themselves with muck and wait for prey to happen by (Mead 2003). Adults are terrestrial and perch at an oblique (about a 45 degree) angle on vegetation on the edges of their water habitats and hunt in fields and forest clearings (Nikula et al. 2003). Females oviposit (lay eggs) by hovering vertically over shallow water and plunging the tip of their abdomen into the mud in a sewing-machine like movement (Dunkle 2000, Nikula et at. 2003).


Tiger Spiketail larvae feed on smaller aquatic invertebrates and adults feed on insects which they capture in flight.

Best Time to See

Adults are active from early June to early September range-wide (Dunkle 2000, Needham et al. 2000); however, have been observed active from mid-July through mid-August in NJ (Barlow, 1995). A similar activity period is expected in New York State. The best time of day to look for adult males is from late in the day until dusk, and their peak activity is around 6 P.M. Larvae may be found in appropriate aquatic habitats year-round.

  • Present
  • Reproducing

The time of year you would expect to find Tiger Spiketail present and reproducing in New York.

Similar Species

  • Delta-spotted Spiketail (Cordulegaster diastatops)
    The abdominal pattern on the Delta-spotted Spiketail is distinct, with yellow lateral (side) spots on segments 1-9 (those on segments 3-8 dagger-shaped) on a black abdomen (Nikula et al. 2003).
  • Twin-spotted Spiketail (Cordulegaster maculata)
    The twin-spotted spiketail has distinctive rounded yellow abdominal markings on segments 3-8 (Nikula et al. 2003).
  • Arrowhead Spiketail (Cordulegaster obliqua) (guide)
    The abdominal pattern on the Arrowhead Spiketail is distinct, with yellow dorsal (top) spots on segments 1-9 (those on segments 4-8 arrowhead-shaped) on a black abdomen (Nikula et al. 2003).

Tiger Spiketail Images


Tiger Spiketail
Cordulegaster erronea Hagen in Selys, 1878

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

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).

Barlow, Allen E. 1995. On the status of Cordulegaster erronea [Hagen in Selys, 1878] in the state of New Jersey. Argia 7:4 (6-9).

Davis, William T. 1913. Dragonflies of the vicinity of New York City with a description of a new species. Journal New York Ent. Society 21: 11-29.

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: New York, New York. 266 pp.

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

NatureServe. 2007. NatureServe Explorer: An online encyclopedia of life [web application]. Version 6.1. NatureServe, Arlington, Virginia. Available http://www.natureserve.org/explorer. (Accessed: January 11, 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 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. Volume 2, Part III: The Anisoptera - four families. Univ. of Toronto Press. 318 pp.


About This Guide

Information for this guide was last updated on: April 16, 2007

Please cite this page as:
New York Natural Heritage Program. 2024. Online Conservation Guide for Cordulegaster erronea. Available from: https://guides.nynhp.org/tiger-spiketail/. Accessed March 4, 2024.