information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Red gurnard (Chelidonichthys cuculus)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.



The red gurnard Aspitrigla cuculus is a member of the scorpionfish family and has a charcteristic suborbital stay, a bony extension from below the eye to the preopercle. It may reach up to 50 cm in length. It can be recognised by the enlarged rays off the pectoral fin, used for food detection, and the way the pectoral fins open and close like a bird's wing. The red gurnard is a good sound producer and, when caught, it makes a croaking noise similar to a frog. It is red in colour with pinkish-silver mottling.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Widely found throughout British and Irish waters.

Global distribution



The red gurnard is a demersal species. It can be found over sand, gravel and rocks on the continental shelf, from 15 m down to a depth of 400 m.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Up to 50 cm in length.
  • Bony extension from below the eye to the preopercle.
  • Two to three enlarged rays off each pectoral fin.
  • Large angular head and steep snout.
  • Up to 10 dorsal spines.
  • Scales absent on breast and anterior part of belly.

Additional information

The red gurnard is classified as a generalist. It is characterized by fast growth and early sexual maturity at a relatively large size (Quero et al., 1986).

Listed by

- none -

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. Froese, R. & Pauly, D., 2007. Fishbase. A global information system on fishes. [On-line], 2008-02-18

  2. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  3. National Biodiversity Network (NBN) Atlas website. Available from:  Accessed 01 April 2017

  4. OBIS,  2018. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2018-01-17

  5. Picton, B.E. & Costello, M.J., 1998. BioMar biotope viewer: a guide to marine habitats, fauna and flora of Britain and Ireland. [CD-ROM] Environmental Sciences Unit, Trinity College, Dublin.,

  6. Quero, J-C., Hureau, J-C., Karrer, C., Post, A. & Saldanha, L. (eds.), 1990. Check-list of the fishes of the eastern tropical Atlantic (CLOFETA) JNICT, Lisbon; SEI, Paris; and UNESCO, Paris.

  7. Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielson, J. & Tortonese, E. 1986. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. I, II & III. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).


This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Chelidonichthys cuculus Red gurnard. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. (eds) Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 17-01-2018]. Available from:

Last Updated: 22/05/2008