Freckled Hawkfish, Paracirrhites forsteri

Why does this fish spend its time sitting on coral, resting on its pectoral fins? Like other hawkfishes it is lying in wait for its prey - small fishes and sometimes shrimps. These they ambush in a surprising burst of speed, which gives rise to their "hawkfish" name.

Freckled hawkfish
Waiting for lunch

Another reason for their perching like a bird-of-prey is the lack of a swim bladder, which means they sink if they stop swimming.

Freckled hawkfish always has red speckles
Hawkfish are easily approached

The freckled hawkfish lives throughout the Indo-Pacific, from the Red Sea to Hawaii, Japan, South Africa and Australia. Divers often see them as they are easily approached and live between 1 and 40 m. They grow to 22 cm long.

Freckled hawkfish in ambush

All freckled hawkfish begin life as female. The largest female becomes the male. Although seen solitarily on coral heads, they actually live in small groups of one male with one or more females.

The hawkfish change colour as they get older. Adults may be pink, brown or muted green with lighter streaks down the side. Some are burgundy with a yellow tail. In all cases the red freckles remain the same. The juvenile fish tend to be white underneath and reddish-brown above.

Juvenile Freckled Hawkfish
Juvenile Freckled Hawkfish

Class: Actinopterygii > Order: Perciformes > Family: Cirrhitidae

Have you any photos of the freckled hawkfish you'd like to share? Send them to us and we'll add them to our gallery.

By Jill Studholme
Photo copyright Tim Nicholson

Further Reading
Coral Reef Guide Red Sea, Lieske and Myers