Telebasis salva
Desert Firetail is a tiny, exquisite gem. It is so small (1 inch) and so slim and so retiring that it is easily overlooked, despite the bright scarlet color of the male (above & below).
This is actually a very widespread New World species, with a range extending south of Venezuela. They like dense marshy habitat and "when flying low over mats of bright green vegetation, the red males are a striking sight" (Manolis 2003).

Here in MTY, Desert Firetail seems to prefer tiny seeps covered with duckweed (as in the photos above and below) but it sometimes is found among reed-lined ponds (left).

Photos (above) 30 July 2006 Lopez Canyon, just west of Pinnacles NM
Photo (left) 24 July 2006 Arroyo Seco Lakes

Female Desert Firetail (right) looks like a washed-out version of the male, with color patterns ranging from rusty-red to pale orange.

Photo (right) 21 Oct 2006 Lake San Antonio
Photo (below) 30 July 2006 Lopez Canyon

DNA evidence suggests that Telebasis firetails are more closely related to Argia dancers than to other small damsels (Saux et al. 2003). Like dancers, ovipositing is in tandem (below). Note the two parallel black bars atop the thorax, separated by a thin central stripe, on both sexes.
Desert Firetail was first discovered in MTY on 1 July 2005 by Steve Rovell along the Arroyo Seco River. In 2006, D. Roberson & Rita Carratello found it at 3 additional sites: (1) Arroyo Seco Lakes; (2) a spring-fed seep in Lopez Canyon, just west of Pinnacles Nat'l Monument; and (3) the western shore of Lake San Antonio. How widely it occurs has yet to be determined.

The map shows the four sites at which Desert Forktail has been found. It is likely more common and widespread elsewhere in the county, but we can hazard a guess that it is limited to the hot, arid interior.

In MTY flight dates stretch only from 6 May to 21 October. Elsewhere in California, flight dates span Apr–Oct (Manolis 2003).

Literature cited:
  • Manolis, T. 2003. Dragonflies and Damselflies of California. Univ. of Calif. Press, Berkeley.
  • Saux, C., C. Simon, and G.S. Spicer. 2003. Phylogeny of the dragonfly and damselfly Order Odonata as inferred by mitochondria 12S ribosomal RNA sequences. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 96: 693-699.

Web resources:
Major identification web sites with much information on California odes include:

For sites with excellent photos to compare for identification or to simply enjoy, see: Many of these sites have links to other useful pages. Kathy Biggs's site is particularly useful in her selection of links.

All photos © Don Roberson 2007


Page created 25-26 Mar 2007, revised 16 May 2007