Red Basker (Urothemis assignata)

View the above photo record (by Georg Jacobs) in OdonataMAP here.

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

Family Libellulidae

Urothemis assignata RED BASKER

(Selys, 1872)


Medium sized

Length up to 44mm; Wingspan reaches 75mm.

A deep red species with conspicuous dark patches at the base of the hind wings.

Males are easily confused with Urothemis luciana (St. Lucia Basker), but are smaller and less robust. Additionally the Red Basker shows less extensive amber patches at the base of the forewings. This amber is in fact, often absent in U. assignata. Both sexes of Urothemis assignata have 7 Ax veins in the forewing (Urothemis luciana has 8 or 9 Ax veins in the forewing).

Females are dull rufous in colouration. They can be mistaken for the females of Urothemis luciana (St. Lucia Basker) and Urothemis edwardsii (Blue Basker). They can be recognised by the number of Ax-veins in the forewing and by the shape of the dark patches in the hind wings.

Click here for more details on identification of the Red Basker.

Urothemis assignata – Male
Mpempe Pan, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Its natural habitats are freshwater lakes, pans, dams, marshes and slow flowing sections of rivers. They prefer still-water habitats with abundant plant growth like reeds and sedges. Non-breeding individuals can often be found in open grassy areas away from water.

Habitat – Mkuze Game Reserve, KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


Red Baskers are perch hunters and spend as much time perched as they do darting off to intercept prey, or to chase off a rival. Urothemis assignata has a powerful, swift flight. They like to sit in open, sunny positions where they are conspicuous. During the heat of the day they can often be seen in the obelisk position, pointing the abdomens at the sun to reduce the amount of direct sunlight on their bodies. Females are most often seen a short distance away from the water.

Status and Conservation

Locally common. Listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. It is fairly resistant to habitat degradation and commonly occupies man-made habitats, providing its habitat requirements are met.


Widespread throughout much of Sub-Saharan Africa. Most abundant in the wetter savanna regions but vagrants are liable to turn up almost anywhere.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Red Basker 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.

Further Resources

Virtual Museum (OdonataMAP > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name)

More common names: Rooisonvangertjie (Afrikaans)

Type Locality: Madagascar, no locality data available.

Recommended citation format: Loftie Eaton. M; Hofmeyr S; Tippett RM; Underhill L – Red Basker Urothemis assignata. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available online at

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.