Norfolk Hawker expands its British range


The scarce Norfolk Hawker appears to be expanding its range in Britain, with climate change considered likely to be the driving factor.

The species was classified as Endangered on the 2008 Odonata Red List, produced by JNCC in conjunction with the British Dragonfly Society (BDS).

Prior to 2013, the dragonfly's breeding sites were exclusively in the east of Norfolk and Suffolk. However, as average temperatures have risen, the species has expanded beyond its former limits and, in recent years, sightings and egg-laying have been recorded in counties such as Lincolnshire, Lancashire, Sussex, Dorset and Devon.

Since 1990, the initial spread in East Anglia was westwards from the Broads and southwards along the coastal marshes of Suffolk. The population that grew around the southern edge of Norwich was helped by water-quality improvements and habitat creation in areas of former gravel pits, such as at Whitlingham Broad.

Norfolk Hawker at Strumpshaw Fen RSPB, Norfolk (Chris Teague).


Dragonfly expansion due to climate change

This more recent colonisation of Norfolk Hawker in counties beyond Norfolk and Suffolk was likely due to climate change, with habitat changes also playing a significant role, the Broads Authority said.

However, Dr Pam Taylor from BDS, said: "Although the hawker's overall range has expanded greatly, there are still huge gaps in its current distribution. It will need to infill many of these gaps before the species is truly secure in this country and only time will tell whether it will succeed."

Furthermore, BDS said it was concerned that ponds, streams and rivers are under threat of future drought and that dragonflies need these wetlands to survive.

The Broads Authority's environment policy adviser Andrea Kelly added: "What appears to be good news about the spread of the Norfolk Hawker and its potential relisting as no longer endangered, is in fact a call to action about the significant threats to its precious wetland habitat."