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Montana Animal Field Guide

Montana Field Guides

Pacific Spiketail - Cordulegaster dorsalis


Global Rank: G5
State Rank: S4
* (see State Rank Reason below)

Agency Status
USFWS:
USFS:
BLM:


 

External Links





State Rank Reason (see State Rank above)
Apparently secure, though it may be rarer in parts of the state with intensive silviculture.
 
General Description
This is a large vividly-marked, black and yellow dragonfly with long abdomen, the eyes are smallish and barely touching. They are strong flyers and when perched often hang at a 45° angle. The female has a spikelike ovipositor. This species inhabits lotic systems in western Montana (small woodland streams and rivers). There is only 1 genus and 1 species of this family of dragonflies in NorthWestern North America.

Diagnostic Characteristics
Only drangonfly in western Montana with black abdomen and yellow spots.

Species Range
Montana Range

Click the legend blocks above to view individual ranges.
 


Range Comments
Swan River Valley (Lake County, into the Yaak watershed and Blue Joint Warm Spring (Ravalli County) (Miller and Gustafson 1996).

Summary of Observations Submitted for Montana
Number of Observations: 26

(Click on the following maps and charts to see full sized version) Map Help and Descriptions
Relative Density

Recency

 

(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)



Habitat
The habitat of the Pacific Spiketail is clear, shady foothill and mountains streams with either sand or mud substrate and steady current. Away from water this species tends to forage along forest openings and clearings or brushy ravines. Pacific Spiketails often perch on trees and small branches of shrubs for lengthy periods of time (Dunkle 2000, Paulson 2009).

Ecological Systems Associated with this Species
  • Details on Creation and Suggested Uses and Limitations
    How Associations Were Made
    We associated the use and habitat quality (high, medium, or low) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
    1. Using personal observations and reviewing literature that summarize the breeding, overwintering, or migratory habitat requirements of each species (Dobkin 1992, Hart et al. 1998, Hutto and Young 1999, Maxell 2000, Foresman 2001, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
    2. Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species’ range and habitat requirements;
    3. Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point database associated with each ecological system;
    4. Calculating the percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system to get a measure of “observations versus availability of habitat”.
    Species that breed in Montana were only evaluated for breeding habitat use, species that only overwinter in Montana were only evaluated for overwintering habitat use, and species that only migrate through Montana were only evaluated for migratory habitat use.  In general, species were associated as using an ecological system if structural characteristics of used habitat documented in the literature were present in the ecological system or large numbers of point observations were associated with the ecological system.  However, species were not associated with an ecological system if there was no support in the literature for use of structural characteristics in an ecological system, even if point observations were associated with that system.  High, medium, and low habitat quality was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species in the literature.  The percentage of observations associated with each ecological system relative to the percent of Montana covered by each ecological system was also used to guide assignments of habitat quality.  If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact Bryce Maxell at bmaxell@mt.gov or (406) 444-3655.

    Suggested Uses and Limitations
    Species associations with ecological systems should be used to generate potential lists of species that may occupy broader landscapes for the purposes of landscape-level planning.  These potential lists of species should not be used in place of documented occurrences of species (this information can be requested at: http://mtnhp.org/requests/default.asp) or systematic surveys for species and evaluations of habitat at a local site level by trained biologists.  Users of this information should be aware that the land cover data used to generate species associations is based on imagery from the late 1990s and early 2000s and was only intended to be used at broader landscape scales.  Land cover mapping accuracy is particularly problematic when the systems occur as small patches or where the land cover types have been altered over the past decade.  Thus, particular caution should be used when using the associations in assessments of smaller areas (e.g., evaluations of public land survey sections).  Finally, although a species may be associated with a particular ecological system within its known geographic range, portions of that ecological system may occur outside of the species’ known geographic range.

    Literature Cited
    • Adams, R.A.  2003.  Bats of the Rocky Mountain West; natural history, ecology, and conservation.  Boulder, CO: University Press of Colorado.  289 p.
    • Dobkin, D. S.  1992.  Neotropical migrant land birds in the Northern Rockies and Great Plains. USDA Forest Service, Northern Region. Publication No. R1-93-34.  Missoula, MT.
    • Foresman, K.R.  2001.  The wild mammals of Montana.  Special Publication No. 12.  Lawrence, KS: The American Society of Mammalogists.  278 p.
    • Hart, M.M., W.A. Williams, P.C. Thornton, K.P. McLaughlin, C.M. Tobalske, B.A. Maxell, D.P. Hendricks, C.R. Peterson, and R.L. Redmond. 1998.  Montana atlas of terrestrial vertebrates.  Montana Cooperative Wildlife Research Unit, University of Montana, Missoula, MT.  1302 p.
    • Hutto, R.L. and J.S. Young.  1999.  Habitat relationships of landbirds in the Northern Region, USDA Forest Service, Rocky Mountain Research Station RMRS-GTR-32.  72 p.
    • Maxell, B.A.  2000.  Management of Montana’s amphibians: a review of factors that may present a risk to population viability and accounts on the identification, distribution, taxonomy, habitat use, natural history, and the status and conservation of individual species.  Report to U.S. Forest Service Region 1.  Missoula, MT: Wildlife Biology Program, University of Montana.  161 p.
    • Werner, J.K., B.A. Maxell, P. Hendricks, and D. Flath.  2004.  Amphibians and reptiles of Montana.  Missoula, MT: Mountain Press Publishing Company. 262 p.

Food Habits
Larvae feed on a wide variety of aquatic insects, such as mosquito larvae, other aquatic fly larvae, mayfly larvae, and freshwater shrimp.
Adult- This damselfly will eat almost any soft-bodied flying insect including mosquitoes, flies, small moths, mayflies, and flying ants or termites.

Reproductive Characteristics
Male Pacific Spiketails patrol very long stretches of streams in low, steady flights usually turning around when encountering an obstacle or open pond. They will often return to same perch repeatedly. Females usually avoid breeding sites until time for egg laying as patrolling males will harass them. Oviposition is completed in shallow water along stream edges driving eggs into the substrate with vertical thrusts (Dunkle 2000, Paulson 2009).

Management
Intact forested riparian areas are essential for this species along it's river corridor

Threats or Limiting Factors
Threats to this species would be clearcutting riparian forests along the corridors of the streams they inhabit.

References
  • Literature Cited AboveLegend:   View Online Publication
    • Dunkle, S.W. 2000. Dragonflies through binoculars: A field guide to dragonflies of North America. New York, NY. Oxford University Press. 266 pp.
    • Miller, K.B. and D.L. Gustafson. 1996. Distribution records of the Odonata of Montana. Bulletin of American Odonatology 3(4):75-88.
    • Paulson, D.R. 2009. Dragonflies and Damselflies of the West. Princeton University Press, Princeton. 535 pp.
  • Additional ReferencesLegend:   View Online Publication
    Do you know of a citation we're missing?
    • Kohler, Nathan S. Excel spreadsheets of Odonate observations/collections in Montana.
  • Web Search Engines for Articles on "Pacific Spiketail"
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Citation for data on this website:
Pacific Spiketail — Cordulegaster dorsalis.  Montana Field Guide.  Montana Natural Heritage Program.  Retrieved on June 24, 2016, from http://FieldGuide.mt.gov/speciesDetail.aspx?elcode=IIODO03030