Red gurnard

Red gurnard ©Bernard Picton

Red gurnard

Scientific name: Chelidonichthys cuculus
This brightly coloured and easily recognizable fish is one of three gurnard species found in UK seas. Collectively, gurnards are known as sea robins.

Species information

Statistics

Length: up to 50cm

Conservation status

Common, classified as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List.

When to see

January to December

About

Red gurnards are bottom-dwelling fish to be found on gravelly, sandy, or rocky seabeds around the UK. They feed on worms and crustaceans.
The lowest three spines of the pectoral fin are separated and used to probe the seabed for hidden prey - they look a bit like legs and can give the impression that the red gurnard is 'walking'!

How to identify

Red gurnards have long bodies and a large head with a steep forehead and big eyes. Their colouring is a distinctive bright red mottled with pink. They have one fin along the spine, which is used for swimming. A key characteristic is their individual spiny fin rays on each side of the body, which act as 'fingers' in searching for food on the seafloor. The larger tub gurnard is normally yellow-ish but can be red or pink - you can identify if a fish is a tub or red gurnard by its large pectoral fins - they are bright blue in tub gurnards. The grey gurnard is, unsurprisingly, grey in colour.

Distribution

Red gurnards are benthic fishes, which means they live on the seabed. They are widely distributed in UK waters.

Did you know?

Red gurnards are good vocalists, and are known for making a croaking sound, like a frog!

How people can help

Locally caught red gurnard is a sustainable choice, so long as they are not caught during the breeding season (May - July) nor are immature fish (less than 24cm). The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, scientists, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust or checking out our Action Pages.