Defending a breeding territory is fairly common among males. The territory contains desirable features such as a sunlit stretch of flowing or stagnant water or a particular substrate necessary for egg-laying, according to the necessary breeding habitat of that particular species. A female must mate with the territory holder before laying her eggs.

Some species defend their territory by a particular perch having good visibility or flying to and fro continuously in a particular area according to their behavioural type (perchers or fliers). Some defend a territory against others of their own species, some against other species of odonates too. Some odonates signal ownership with striking colours on their face, abdomen, legs, or wings. Other behaviours observed include wing-warning, wing-clapping, chasing and abdominal bobbing.

Day flying odonates actively defend their territory a few hours in a sunny day. Crepuscular species are active primarily during twilight.