Pantala flavescens
photo (above) 19 Sep 2006 Laguna Grande, Seaside
Wandering Glider is almost always on the wing. They fly high and low, in swarms and alone, far and near. Hikers on a warm Indian Summer day at Garrapata State Park may encounter hundreds riding the currents at the edge of rocky gorges. The winds take them out across the ocean — they've been seen by birders on pelagic trips far at sea, and they've made it to Hawaii. They are found throughout the world as the great wanderer of the odonata realm. It seems fitting, then, that a flight shot should serve as our headline photo.

When found perched (below), one sees an intricately patterned ode hanging vertically. The wings are clear. The eyes are brick-red, and the pterostigma are golden. The thorax is a cheesy-yellow, marked down the center with reddish lines and ending in 2 or 3 dark blue blotches on the 8th through 10th abdominal segments.

photo (below) 7 July 2006 Carmel River mouth
When perched, Wandering Glider generally picks a twig or weed near the ground, and becomes very inconspicuous (below).
It is quite a matter of luck that the first two gliders I ever encountered happened to be flying over small territories at the Carmel River mouth, and by standing still they both settled down into perches for these photos (above & below). This species is within a group known as "rainpool gliders" because they deposit eggs in ephemeral pools. The larvae quickly develop and emerge before the pool dries up. Gliders that emerge in northern latitudes in the fall fly south to breed in spring (Manolis 2003).
Photo (above) 7 July 2006 Carmel River mouth
Male and female Wandering Gliders are much alike. Both show simple flanges as appendages. Males tend to be brighter yellow in color.

There are some cool comments on behavior in Beaton (2007): "Frequently seen in parking lots, attempting to lay eggs on shiny car hoods."  And you wondered what those were. "Most often seen patrolling small bodies of water, from puddles to ditches. Flight includes frequent hovering and apparently effortless gliding, and consists primarily of slow monotonous patrols up one side and down the other of the puddle. . . Appears easy to catch but is not."

Nonetheless, Rob Fowler and colleagues at Big Sur Ornithology Lab netted this one (right) at Big Sur R. mouth in July 2004, constituting the first confirmed record for MTY.  It is actually a quite common species, especially in fall, and can be found in large feeding swarms of other Wandering Gliders and, sometimes, with Spot-winged Gliders.

Photo (right) 14 July 2004 Big Sur R. mouth [©Rob Fowler]

This close-up of a perched individual — taken in Sacramento — nicely shows the very broad hindwings that make this ode such an effortless glider. The duller color to the body and the grayer eyes suggest this is a female or immature individual.
Photo (above) 12 Aug 2006 along American River, Sacramento SAC
This map shows some representative locales at which this glider has been observed. All are over open country — fields, coastal dunes, ag land, and lawns in city parks among them. The species has only been reported in MTY since 2004, so records are still accumulating. They could occur almost anywhere. A glider seen over the Pacific Ocean ~25 nmi W of Pt. Sur on 27 Aug 2006 was probably this species (Roger Wolfe).

MTY flight dates ranges from 22 May–27 Sep. Elsewhere in California they regular occur March to November, with a peak in the fall (Manolis 2003) but there are recent records from Jan-Feb which (presumably) represent very late individuals.

Literature cited:
  • Manolis, T. 2003. Dragonflies and Damselflies of California. Univ. of Calif. Press, Berkeley.
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 24 Feb 2007, updated 23 May 2007