The Dragonflies and Damselflies of North Carolina
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North Carolina's 189 Odonate species

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Related Species in LIBELLULIDAE: Number of records added in 2021 = 0

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Red Saddlebags (Tramea onusta) by Mark Shields
Compare with: Carolina Saddlebags   Striped Saddlebags  
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Note: these identification tips apply specifically to mature males; features may differ in immature males and in females.

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Click on county for list of all its records for Red Saddlebags
flight charts
distribution This is a species primarily of the western and central parts of the United States, and is a migrant or stray to most Atlantic Coast states. The status in NC is very confusing. A few references indicate that NC lack records; Paulson (2011) states that there are "no North Carolina records". The OdonataCentral database gives only three NC records -- a photograph from Dare County in 2003 from Pea Island NWR, two photos from New Hanover County in 2015, and another from the latter county in 2016. (These records from 2003, 2015, and 2016 are also documented by photos on this website -- see below). Several other unconfirmed reports have appeared in the literature. The University of Florida database, containing thousands of specimens from Duncan Cuyler, actually gives a stunning ten county records for Red Saddlebags! Are all of these specimens correctly identified (i.e., are not the very similar Carolina Saddlebags)?
abundance Presumed very rare migrant, and perhaps mainly near the coast, as the only records confirmed by photos are from coastal counties. However, as it looks very similar to Carolina Saddlebags, most people would easily overlook the species.
flight Presumably only in summer and fall. The photo records are for 22 August; 19, 25, 27, and 28 November; and 18 December. The collection records, if correct, fall between 3 July and 2 October.
habitat The NC photo records are presumably from the vicinity of coastal ponds -- Pea Island refuge (perhaps around an impoundment) and Carolina Beach State Park (limesink ponds). Paulson (2011) indicates that lakes and ponds are primary habitats, as well as canals and other slow-moving waters.
behavior Probably similar to other saddlebags, which typically fly above or at head height over mainly open areas -- ponds, fields, etc. They perch somewhat infrequently, and when they do perch, not surprisingly it is often over a person's eye level.
comments No species in the state has more confusing data and status than the Red Saddlebags. Is it a not-so-rare migrant/stray, easily overlooked amid the common Carolina Saddlebags, or is it casual to very rare as a stray? This is a difficult species to separate from the common Carolina Saddlebags through binoculars or the naked eye. However, the Red Saddlebags has a somewhat smaller hind wing patch, a somewhat duller red abdomen (despite the common name) with smaller areas of black on the terminal segments, and several other characters. Unraveling this mystery might take a few years, if ever! Thankfully, Mark Shields observed and photographed two individuals on both 27 and 28 November 2015 at Carolina Beach State Park, to further confirm its presence in the state. He also photographed two individuals at that park in November 2016, and another there in December 2016, suggesting that the species may be a regular fall visitor to southeastern NC and not just a casual stray far out of its normal range.
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S_rank SZN
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G_rank G5
date_spread [Overwinter:] [Date Spread:] [No Late Date:] [Split on Feb:] [Default:]
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Species account update: LeGrand on 2021-02-10 16:09:12

Photo Gallery for Red Saddlebags   8 photos are shown. Other NC Galleries:    Jeff Pippen    Will Cook    Ted Wilcox
Photo 1 by: Mark Shields

Comment: New Hanover, 2016-11-25, limesink ponds at Carolina Beach State Park - males, 1 at Grass Pond, 1 at Cypress Pond where seen on 11-19
Photo 2 by: Mark Shields

Comment: New Hanover, 2016-11-25, limesink ponds at Carolina Beach State Park - males, 1 at Grass Pond, 1 at Cypress Pond where seen on 11-19
Photo 3 by: Mark Shields

Comment: New Hanover, 2016-11-19, limesink pond at Carolina Beach State Park - male
Photo 4 by: Mark Shields

Comment: New Hanover, 2016-11-19, limesink pond at Carolina Beach State Park - male
Photo 5 by: Mark Shields

Comment: New Hanover, 2015-11-27, 2 males, Carolina Beach State Park. Photos clearly show features that distinguish Red from Carolina Saddlebags: black spots only on top of S8 and S9; most of anal loop clear; red stripe on leading edge of hindwing separated from larger hindwing spot; no purple on frons; long, slender hamules extend well beyond genital lobe.
Photo 6 by: Mark Shields

Comment: New Hanover, 2015-11-27, 2 males, Carolina Beach State Park. Photos clearly show features that distinguish Red from Carolina Saddlebags: black spots only on top of S8 and S9; most of anal loop clear; red stripe on leading edge of hindwing separated from larger hindwing spot; no purple on frons; long, slender hamules extend well beyond genital lobe.
Photo 7 by: Mark Shields

Comment: New Hanover, 2015-11-27, 2 males, Carolina Beach State Park. Photos clearly show features that distinguish Red from Carolina Saddlebags: black spots only on top of S8 and S9; most of anal loop clear; red stripe on leading edge of hindwing separated from larger hindwing spot; no purple on frons; long, slender hamules extend well beyond genital lobe.
Photo 8 by: Ben Coulter

Comment: Dare; OBM, 2003-08-22, Two photos posted to OdonataCentral, vetted by John Abbott as "confirmed", though he stated that it was unfortunate no photo of the frons was available; website says "collected on", but likely just photos