Dragonfly Guide

Aeshna grandis

(Linnaeus, 1758)

Brown hawker

Aeshna grandis
Aeshna grandis, male
Photo: Göran LiljebergCreative Commons CCCreative Commons BY


Aeshna grandis is a large dragonfly. The general colour is brown, even the eyes are brown with a yellow back liner. The wings are evenly tinted with a bronze shade, which is visible in flight. Mature males have blue spots beside the base of each wing, on S2 and the side of the abdomen. They also get a blue hue in their eyes. Females have blue spots only beside the base of the wings, the other spots are yellow. In immature individuals, all spots are yellow. A. grandis has none or indistinct antehumeral stripes. The thorax sides has two broad lemmon-yellow bands, with no spots in between.


Flight is powerful, fast and untiring. Males patrol large areas. Males might seem less aggressive than other aeshnids but that might be due to territorial size rather than any male backing down on a fight. It will still engage on any other male they meet. It can be found in numbers, ten or more, far from waters, hunting high up in the air in glades, on forest road openings or over tree-tops. On warm summer evenings it can be active quite late in the evenings.


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Distribution map. Data from gbif.org

Widespread in northern, central and easter Europe with a continuous range reaching the Massif central in France, the Alps and the mountains of Romania. In the French Pyrenees and south-east Europe populations are small and isolated. In the west and south it prefers forested areas and might be lacking in open landscapes, like central Hungary. In central Europe it is common, but population levels are usually low compared to other more abundant aeshnids. Far higher densities are found in mountainous areas and in the north and north-east, where it can be omnipresent.


Found near all types of standing or, less often, slowly flowing waters, such as peaty ponds, lakes, canals, oxbows, peat bogs and fenlands, and to a lesser extent water storage facilities, ditches and manmade peat excavations. Habitats mostly have several characteristics in common, typically being situated in forest areas and fringed by a belt of helophytes or peat moss, or having a dense floating or submerged vegetation. In the south of its European range, the species is absent from habitats in the early stages of succession, apparently requiring more mature habitats. Most of the population in central and northern Europe are found in lowlands up to 500 m in altitude, but in the west and the south of its range long-lasting populations are confined to higher altitudes, although in the Alps most populations are found below 1 000 m. Nevertheless, it's frequently found up to 2 00 m in Austria and the French Pyrenees and reproduction has been recorded up to 2 250 m.


  • Atlas of the European Dragonflies and Damselflies, Jean-Pierre Boudot(Editor), Vincent J Kalkman(Editor), Fons Peels(Illustrator)

  • Dragonflies and Damselflies of Europe: A scientific approach to the identification of European Odonata without capture, Galliani, C.; Scherini, R.; Piglia, A.

  • Field guide to the dragonflies of Britain and Europe, Klaas-Douwe B Dijkstra.

  • Nordens trollsländor, M. Billqvist, D. Andersson, C. Bergendorff