Coral Hawkfish

Coral Hawkfish, Cirrhitichtys oxycephalus

The Coral Hawkfish, Cirrhitichtys oxycephalus, whose common Spanish name is Halcón de Coral is a member of the Hawkfish or Cirrhitidae Family, known collectively as “Halcónes” in Mexico.

The Coral Hawkfish has a moderately compressed oval body. They are white or pink in color with squarish red to brown blotches covering the sides with smaller red to brown spots and blotches on the head. There is a row of squarish blotches along the dorsal fin base. The anal fin is dark, the caudal fin and dorsal fin are heavily spotted, the pectoral fins are pinkish red and the pelvic fins are clear. The head has a pointed snout with a straight profile with a fringe of cirri on the rear edge of the front nostril, a large mouth equipped with a row of small canine teeth and the gill cover has two flat spines. The anal fin has three spines and six rays, the caudal fin has a straight edge, the dorsal fin has ten spines, with a bunch of cirri at each tip, and twelve rays, the pectoral fins are large with seven or eight rays the lower six of which are stout, and one pelvic fin spine and five rays with its origin behind the pectoral fin base. The body is covered with smooth scales.

Coral Hawkfish inhabit coral and rocky reefs very close to shore and are found at depths up to 130 feet but are most likely seen perched on coral heads at depths of less than 50 feet. They reach a maximum length of 10 cm (3.9 inches). The Coral Hawkfish has a wide distribution being found in both the Indian and Pacific Oceans however, it presence in Mexican waters is limited the extreme southwest coast of the Baja (established by the fish photographed below), in the southern two-thirds of the Sea of Cortez and along the coast of the mainland south to Guatemala.

The Coral Hawkfish is a very easy fish to identify due to its unique markings and most likely confused with the Longnose Hawkfish, Oxycirrhitus typus (long extended snout).

Due to their size they have no value as a food fish, however, due to their beauty and size they are sold commercially for the aquarium trade.

Coral Hawkfish, Cirrhitus oxycephalus: Provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, June, 2011. Size: 8 cm (3.15 inches).
Coral Hawkfish, Cirrhitus oxycephalus: Provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, June, 2011. Size: 8 cm (3.15 inches).
Coral Hawkfish, Cirrhitus oxycephalus: Provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, March 2012. Size: 5.3 cm (2.1 inches).
Coral Hawkfish, Cirrhitus oxycephalus: Provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater Los Cabos area, Baja California Sur, March 2012. Size: 5.3 cm (2.1 inches).