Shadow Darner - Aeshna umbrosa
The Shadow Darner is a common and widespread member of the family Aeshnidae. Darners are among the largest and fastest-flying North American dragonflies, 2 1/4-4 3/4" (57-120 mm) long. Shadow Darners are found state wide from the mountians to the prairies with a subspecies in the east and in the western part of the state. Preferred habitat includes small slow-flowing forested streams, as well as shaded lakes, ponds, bogs, fens, swamps and ditches (Nikula et al. 2002, Paulson 2009, Dunkle 2000). In eastern Montana shaded riparian areas are probably key for this species to be present. Of the wedge shaded cerci darners with straight thoracic stripes, the shadow darner is more brown in color and narrower T-stripes, no face line, eastern form with small green abdominal spots, while western form has larger blue abdominal spots. Associated Wetland and Lotic ecological systems are numerous: Western Emergent Marsh, Northern Rocky Mountain Wooded Vernal Pool and the Rocky Mountain Subalpine-Montane Fen, Great Plains Open Freshwater Depressional Wetland, Perennial Praire Streams.
Of the wedge shaded cerci darners with straight thoracic stripes, the shadow darner is more brown in color and narrower T-stripes, no face line, eastern form with small green abdominal spots, while western form has larger blue abdominal spots.
The Shadow Darner has two distinctive subspecies, both of which occur in Montana. Aeshna umbrosa umbrosa occurs across the eastern plains and A. u. occidentalis is distributed in and west of the Rocky Mountains (Paulson 2009).
Observations in Montana Natural Heritage Program Database
Number of Observations:
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Map Help and Descriptions
(Observations spanning multiple months or years are excluded from time charts)
Shadow Darners occupy small slow-flowing forested streams, as well as shaded lakes, ponds, bogs, fens, swamps and ditches (Dunkle 2000, Nikula et al. 2002, Paulson, 2009). This species is also found far from water in clearings, forest edges, and forested roads (Nikula et al. 2002).
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 (common or occasional) of each of the 82 ecological systems mapped in Montana for
vertebrate animal species that regularly breed, overwinter, or migrate through the state by:
- 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 2012, Adams 2003, and Werner et al. 2004);
- Evaluating structural characteristics and distribution of each ecological system relative to the species' range and habitat requirements;
- Examining the observation records for each species in the state-wide point observation database associated with each ecological system;
- 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 listed as associated with 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 listed as 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.
Common versus occasional association with an ecological system was assigned based on the degree to which the structural characteristics of an ecological system matched the preferred structural habitat characteristics for each species as represented in scientific 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 assignment of common versus occasional association.
If you have any questions or comments on species associations with ecological systems, please contact the Montana Natural Heritage Program's Senior Zoologist.
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: mtnhp.org/requests
) 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.
- 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. 2012. Mammals of Montana. Second edition. Mountain Press Publishing, Missoula, Montana. 429 pp.
- 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.
Larvae feed on a wide variety of aquatic insects, such as mosquito larvae, other aquatic fly larvae, mayfly larvae, and freshwater shrimp. They will also eat very small fish and tadpoles.
Adult- The dragonfly will eat almost any soft-bodied flying insect including mosquitoes, flies, small moths, mayflies, and flying ants or termites.
This species is mostly active in shaded areas, hence the name Shadow Darner. It is known to feed out in the open very late into the evening even into darkness (Dunkle 2000, Paulson 2009).
Shadow Darner males patrol close to the shoreline over open water often hovering for extensive periods. Females oviposit in the decaying wood of floating logs or submerged twigs and branches, even into moist trunks of trees and earthen banks of shoreline. This ovipositing behavior tends to lead to older females with missing or damages ceri (Dunkle 2000, Nikula et al. 2002, Paulson, 2009).
- 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.
- Nikula, B., J. Sones, D.W. Stokes, and L.Q. Stokes. 2002. Stokes beginner's guide to dragonflies and damselflies. Boston: Little, Brown. 159 pp.
- 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?
- Oswald, R.A. 1979. Observations of distribution, abundance and production-related aspects of aquatic macroinvertebrates in natural thermal gradients. M.Sc. Thesis. Bozeman, Montana: Montana State University. 137 p.
- Sater, S. 2022. The insects of Sevenmile Creek, a pictorial guide to their diversity and ecology. Undergraduate Thesis. Helena, MT: Carroll College. 242 p.
- Additional Sources of Information Related to "Insects"