The Ruddy Darter is one of the most beautiful darters, especially fully grown males. They are the deepest of all reds, including their faces. Males therefore are unmistakable. Females and freshly emerged males are very similar to those of the Common Darter
. The difference is in the legs: those of the Common Darter are partly black, partly yellow, those of the Ruddy Darter are black entirely. Every now and then though, a specimen is seen with some yellow on the first part of the leg (the thigh). Like in other Darters some female are as red as the males are. The Ruddy Darter is not a very big species. It reaches a length of some 34 to 46mm and the wingspan usually is less than 60mm. In all pictures are males, except for the top and bottom pictures which shows a female.
After mating the first eggs are deposited in tandem position. But after a few minutes the male lets go off the female. She continues depositing eggs alone, but he's never far away chasing off other males. The eggs are usually laid in the mud in very shallow waters, or on the surface of deeper waters, where they soon sink to the bottom. They'll ovewinter before the larvae hatch. These live among waterplants in all kinds of water, preferably with lots of plants growing in the water and among the shores. The adults always appear after just one year. The Ruddy Darter is a common species in the South of England and in Ireland.
The adult Ruddy Darters often migrate over great distances and are regularly seen far away from water, for instance over meadows, parks, gardens and even highways. Like their relatives they hunt from a high point, to which they return after an attempt. This means you don't have to go running after them, but you can wait for their return. They turn out to be rather good models for photographers and even the males tend to be quite tolerable.