Ferruginous Glider (Tramea limbata)

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

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

Family Libellulidae


(Desjardins, 1832)


Medium sized

Length up to 52mm; Wingspan up to 94mm.

Most resembles Tramea basilaris (Keyhole Glider). That species is similar in both size and shape but has more extensive and differently shaped markings at the base of the hind wings. Tramea limbata has a deep red rather than orange-red abdomen and a brown face and eyes. Tramea basilaris has a red face with variable amounts of yellow and dark red eyes.

Females closely resemble the males but have broader abdomens and their dark wing panels are rounder and slightly wider.

Click here for more details on identification of the Ferruginous Glider.

Tramea limbata – Male
Kruger National Park, Mpumalanga
Photo by Gerhard Diedericks


The favoured breeding habitat is open, shallow water bodies like pans, lakes, dams and marshes. Prefers ephemeral wetlands. Regularly found in other habitats away from water.

Habitat – Near Hluhluwe KwaZulu-Natal
Photo by Ryan Tippett


A powerful, smooth flyer that spends much of its time on the wing. Mostly hunts in bush country away from the water. Periodically perches on the tops of bushes, reeds or trees. Often gregarious. Tramea limbata is nomadic and its movements are erratic and linked to rainfall.

On the wing from November to May

Status and Conservation

Common but Listed as of Least Concern in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. This is a hardy and adaptable species that readily makes use of temporary, degraded and man-made water bodies.


Tramea limbata has a very wide distribution. It is erratically distributed throughout sub-Saharan Africa and is also found on Madagascar and many of the Indian Ocean islands. Populations additionally occur in parts of the Middle East and Western Asia.

In South Africa the species is most abundant in coastal KwaZulu-Natal but also occurs widely in the Mpumalanga, Gauteng, North-West and Limpopo provinces. The range then extends from KwaZulu-Natal in a broad band along the coast to the Eastern and Western Cape.

Below is a map showing the distribution of records for Ferruginous Glider 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: Enkelbandswewer (Afrikaans)

Type Locality: Mauritius, no locality data available.

Recommended citation format: Loftie Eaton. M; Hofmeyr S; Tippett RM; Underhill L. Ferruginous Glider Tramea limbata. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available online at http://thebdi.org/2020/05/12/ferruginous-glider-tramea-limbata/

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.