Goldtail (Allocnemis leucosticta)

View the above photo record (by Corrie du Toit) in OdonataMAP here.

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

Family Platycnemididae

Allocnemis leucostictaGOLDTAIL


Small to medium sized

Length up to 46mm; Wingspan reaches 57mm.

A distinctive and easily recognised damselfly. Unlike any other species in the region.

Largely black above and pale below with light blue-green stripes on the thorax. The diagnostic features include amber-washed wings with large white pterostigmas, and the males have golden-yellow terminal segments on the abdomen.

Females are similar but lack the golden yellow abdomen tips.

Click here for more details on identification.

Allocnemis leucosticta – Male
Moordkuil River, Western Cape
Photo by Ryan Tippett
Allocnemis leucosticta – Female
Everton, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Rob Dickinson


This is a shade-loving species of forested or well wooded streams and rivers. It prefers streams that have clear, shallow water. This is mostly a species of mid to high altitude areas, but occurs at sea level in some places in KwaZulu-Natal and the Southern Cape. Allocnemis leucosticta is occasionally found at more open streams surrounded by grass and bushes, particularly in fynbos and montane grassland habitats.

Typical habitat – Ngome Forest, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


The males are rather noticeable as they sit in exposed positions over the stream in dappled sunlight. Their white pterostigmas and yellowish wings are conspicuous in flight. The females are often found near the males but are less numerous and not as obvious. Allocnemis leucosticta almost always perch on twigs, stems or vegetation over or close to the water.

Most active from October to April. See Phenology below.

Status and Conservation

Allocnemis leucosticta is endemic to South Africa. It is common but localised due to its habitat requirements. It is listed as Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Goldtails are fairly sensitive to habitat degradation. They are intolerant of dirty water, but can be found on streams with some alien vegetation.


Found in the mid to high altitude escarpment areas of South Africa and Swaziland. Ranging from Table Mountain in the Western Cape to the Soutpansberg in Limpopo.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Goldtail 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, Sally Hofmeyr, Ryan Tippett & Les Underhill
Dragonfly Atlas: Megan Loftie-Eaton, Sally Hofmeyr, Ryan Tippett & Les Underhill
Megan Loftie-Eaton is our communications, social media and citizen science coordinator. Prior to her work for the BDI, she coordinated OdonataMAP, the Atlas of African Odonata. Sally Hofmeyr has many years' experience in the academic world, writing her own material and editing the work of others. Her academic background is in the natural sciences: her PhD and first postdoc in ornithology and environmental change (Animal Demography Unit, University of Cape Town). 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 Odonata Map project. 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.