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Common Clubtail


Gomphus vulgatissimus (Linnaeus, 1758)



Status in Britain and Ireland:

scarce and local in southern Britain.

Near Threatened (GB Red List)

Local Status:



Overall body length 45-50mm
Hindwing length 28-33mm

Flight period:

May to June

Photograph © D. Williams

Male Common Clubtail

This is the only dragonfly species in the UK in which the eyes are separated with no point of contact between the 2. The abdomen is noticeably club shaped and mostly black with a dorsal broken yellow line running to segment 7. The thorax has broad yellow antehumeral stripes with 2 broad black stipes below. When mature, all the yellow areas apart from the large spots on the side of segments 8-9 change to pale green. The wings are quite broad with brown pterostigma and the bases of the hindwing are angular. The eyes are blue green and the legs are black.

Photograph ©  D. Williams

Female Common Clubtail

The females also have clearly separated eyes. The abdomen is thicker than males with only a slight bulge visible in segments 8-9. The females have strong yellow markings on the black body. The hindwings are rounded not angular at the base.

Similar Species

No other UK species of dragonfly have clear separation between the eyes.


Individuals emerge on mass in May after which they fly away from the water and into woodland where they hunt for prey and mature. They can travel up to 10km from the emergence site (Brooks & Cham, 2014) and as a result are rarely seen at this stage. Mature males then return to the river and can be found perching on steep banks, stones or nearby vegetation. Males are territorial and will fly out close to the water surface to search for females before returning to the same perch. Few copulations are observed as this takes place possibly some distance from water and probably high in the tree canopy. Females will then oviposit alone by simply dipping the abdomen in the water and washing off the eggs.


Found only on a small number of slow flowing rivers or large streams where much silt or sand is present. Lakes and gravel pits can occasionally also be inhabited where there is an abundance of silt or fine sand. Very vulnerable to pollution and removal of trees from riverbanks.

Shropshire Distribution

The Shropshire distribution of Common Clubtail is centred upon the Rivers Severn and Vyrnwy. Records date back as far as 1917 recorded at The Albynes near the River Severn. Current adult records can mostly be linked to these 2 rivers though tenerals have been recorded at a number of the meres. This can be explained by this species often flying quite large distances from the breeding site in order to mature. A number of exuvial records have been made at various locations on the River Severn and interestingly 2 exuvial records were made in 1999 on the River Teme near Boraston. The Odonata Red Data List ‘near threatened catergory’ was given in 2008 partly due to significant population decline being observed along the River Severn.

Shropshire Distribution Map (SEDN)

© Crown copyright 2016 OS 100049049

Where to see in Shropshire

Best observed during the period of mass emergence in late May. Along the River Severn at Atcham, at Hampton Loade or at Severn Valley Country Park.


National Distribution

Additional Photographs

Copulating pair. Photograph © B. Kemp