Common Hawker

Name

Aeshna juncea (Linnaeus, 1758)

Family:

Aeshnidae

Status in Britain and Ireland:

common and widespread; local in eastern England

Local Status:

local

Size:

Overall body length 65-80mm
Hindwing length 40-48mm

Flight period:

Mid June until September

Common Hawker male
Photograph ©  B. Kemp

Male Common Hawker

The dark abdomen is noticeably waisted and has paired blue spots and smaller yellow marks. The anal appendages are long. The thorax has 2 broad yellow side stripes(often with a splash of colour between) and narrow but prominent yellow antehumeral stripes. The wings have a yellow costa and long dark pterostigma and maybe slightly suffused yellowish brown in mature specimens. The eyes are blue with a broad contact point between the 2. The legs are mainly black though the upper part (femur) maybe brown.

Common Hawker female
Photograph © P. Spear

Female Common Hawker

The abdomen is brown with paired yellow spots (occassionaly greenish). The antehumeral stripes are reduced to 2 yellow spots. The pterostigma are brown. The eyes are brown/green again with a broad contact point between the 2.

Similar Species

In Shropshire most likely to be confused with Southern and Migrant Hawkers. Migrant Hawkers are unlikely to be found in the same acidic heathland habitat as Common Hawker and the males have very reduced antehumeral stripes. Migrant Hawker of both sexes also have a distinctive ‘golf- tee’ shape on segment 2 lacking in Common Hawker. Southern Hawker may be seen in similar habitat though broad antehumeral stripes and continuous bands of colour on abdominal segments 9 and 10 easily distinguish Southern Hawker. In addition the Common Hawker has a distinctive yellow costa which is brown in the Southern and Migrant Hawker.

Behaviour

A large powerful and fast hawker which rarely seems to come to a rest! Males can be seen flying low around pool side vegetation searching for females or aggressively chasing off other males. When rarely perching they prefer shrubs or tree branches to an exposed open area. Mating often lasts for an hour or more then the female oviposits alone into submerged plant material. The resulting larvae remain in the water for up to 4 years and eventual emergence usually takes place during the hours of darkness.

Habitat

Prefers still neutral- acidic waters of lakes and boggy pools, typically in areas of heathland or moorland.

Shropshire Distribution

First recorded in 1932 on Whixall Moss and then again in 1950 and 1969. A further early record was made in 1953 at Llanymynech. Records increased in the 1970s with further sightings at Whixall Moss, The Bog (Stiperstones), Soudley Pools (nr Church Stretton) and Cricket Pool near Bromfield. Throughout the 1980’s recorder effort increased and first sightings were made at Cramer Gutter on Catherton Common and a number of sites on Titterstone Clee Hill. In the 1990’s Lockton et al., (1996) described this species as local and this remains the case. Whilst distribution maps show an infilling of previously recorded areas, the specific habitat requirements of this species will limit the distribution. Interestingly the National Atlas (Cham et al., 2014) showed a significant decline on a national scale. This has not yet been reflected in Shropshire and is possibly more indicative of some southern UK sites showing a decline.

Shropshire Distribution Map (SEDN)

© Crown copyright 2016 OS 100049049

Where to see in Shropshire

Whixall Moss, Wildmoor Pool and Pole Cottage Pool on the Long Mynd, Cramer Gutter on Catherton Common and The Bog at Stiperstones.  Also recorded recently at Eardington Nature Reserve.

 

National Distribution

Additional Photographs

Common Hawker male
Male in flight. Photograph © P. Spear