Orange-winged Dropwing (Trithemis kirbyi)

The photo above (by Riëtte Griesel) can be viewed in OdonataMAP here.

Find this species in the FBIS database (Freshwater Biodiversity Information System) here.

Family Libellulidae




Length up to 37mm; Wingspan up to 63mm

Both sexes are readily identifiable. Males could be mistaken for Brachythemis lacustris, but have more elongate builds, slender abdomens, a tapered waist, small black pterostigmas and unmarked red eyes.

Females are similar to other Trithemis species but can be separated on their distinctive abdomen pattern.

Click here for more details on identification.

Trithemis kirbyi – Male
Near Carnarvon, Northern Cape
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Trithemis kirbyi – Female
Near Hluhluwe, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Inhabits a wide range of natural and man-made water bodies, including rivers, streams, lakes, pans, dams, concrete reservoirs, swimming pools and drinking troughs. They prefer rocky habitats and areas with bare ground adjacent to the water. Bare concrete, gravel and bricks surrounding artificial water bodies provide ideal habitat. They can be found at both still and running water, and also make use of temporary and somewhat brackish water. Trithemis kirbyi can be particularly common at water points in dry arid regions.

Habitat – Near Keimoes, Northern Cape


A conspicuous species that sits in the open on rocks or bare ground and sometimes on branches or reeds. Females are often found near the males but are far more cryptic. Males can be very active as they restlessly chase each other or intercept prey. The flight is rapid but not sustained and they quickly return to a perch.

Status and Conservation

Trithemis kirbyi is an abundant and widespread species. It is listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Orange-winged Dropwings are highly adaptable and resitant to habitat change. They have made great use of man-made impoundments and have doubtless benefited from this. This species is often more prevalent at degraded habitats than in pristine areas.


Trithemis kirbyi has a wide distribution. It is found virtually throughout Africa and in parts of the Middle East and southern Europe (Spain). It extends eastwards to India and Sri Lanka and also occurs on many islands in the Indian Ocean.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Orange-winged Dropwing in the OdonataMAP database as at February 2020.

The next map below is an imputed map, produced by an interpolation algorithm, which attempts to generate a full distribution map from the partial information in the map above. This map will be improved by the submission of records to the OdonataMAP section of the Virtual Museum.

Ultimately, we will produce a series of maps for all the odonata species in the region. The current algorithm is a new algorithm. The objective is mainly to produce “smoothed” maps that could go into a field guide for odonata. This basic version of the algorithm (as mapped above) does not make use of “explanatory variables” (e.g. altitude, terrain roughness, presence of freshwater — we will be producing maps that take these variables into account soon). Currently, it only makes use of the OdonataMAP records for the species being mapped, as well as all the other records of all other species. The basic maps are “optimistic” and will generally show ranges to be larger than what they probably are.

These maps use the data in the OdonataMAP section of the Virtual Museum, and also the database assembled by the previous JRS funded project, which was led by Professor Michael Samways and Dr KD Dijkstra.


Dragonfly Atlas: Megan Loftie-Eaton, Ryan Tippett, Rene Navarro & Les Underhill
Dragonfly Atlas: Megan Loftie-Eaton, Ryan Tippett, Rene Navarro & Les Underhill
Megan Loftie-Eaton is our communications, social media and citizen science projects coordinator. Prior to her work for the BDI, she coordinated OdonataMAP, the Atlas of African Odonata. Ryan Tippett is an enthusiastic contributor to Citizen Science and has added many important and interesting records of fauna and flora. He has been a member of the VMU since 2014 and has currently submitted over 11000 records. He is also on the expert identification panel for the OdonataMAP project. Rene Navarro is the genius behind the Virtual Museum. Prof Les Underhill has been Director of the Animal Demography Unit (ADU) at the University of Cape Town since it started in 1991. Although citizen science in biology is Les’s passion, his academic background is in mathematical statistics.