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/A Diversity of Aquatic Life

Hawkfishes of the Cook Islands

Bob Fenner

Cirrhitus pinnulatus

Hawkfishes, family Cirrhitidae. Seven Hawks occur in the Cooks, three are too big. Forster's or the Blackside Hawkfish, Paracirrhites forsteri tops out at nine inches, and both the Whitespot Hawk (Paracirrhites hemistictus) and Stocky Hawkfish (Cirrhitus pinnulatus) attain a foot in length. Cute when small, predatory with size.

Amblycirrhitus bimacula (Jenkins 1903), the Two Spot Hawkfish. Indo-Pacific: East Africa to Hawai'i. To three or so inches in length. Found in shallow turbulent water.


Cirrhitus pinnulatus (Forster 1801), the Stocky Hawkfish. Indo-Pacific, including the Red Sea. To a foot in length. This four inch specimen in Hawai'i. An occasional import that does well in captivity, including reefs that don't house small motile invertebrates or fishes.

Of really saleable species though, the area has good numbers of the spectacular Flame Hawk (Neocirrhites armatus) and this is one of the few targeted species Chip Boyle seeks out for collecting.

Neocirrhites armatus Castelnau 1873, the Scarlet or Flame Hawkfish. Pacific Plate in distribution. To three and a half inches in length. A tough beauty. This one in captivity.

The Arc-Eye hawkfish, Paracirrhites arcatus (Cuvier 1829). With an interesting U-shaped three color patch behind the eye. They grow to about 5 inches in length and come in two basic color varieties; one flesh-toned, the other a darker brown based. Both of these in Hawai'i.

Forster's or Freckled Hawkfish, Paracirrhites forsteri (Schneider 1801). Full length of almost nine inches, so be careful when purchasing a larger one. Indo-Pacific. Juvenile and adult in the Cooks

Paracirrhites hemistictus (Gunther 1874), the Whitespotted Hawkfish. Indo-Pacific on many islands but continental shores. To almost a foot in length. The first one in Moorea, French Polynesia, the second in the Cooks. 

Paracirrhites nisus Randall 1963. West Central Pacific; Cook Islands and Polynesia. Looks like a cross between Forster's and the Arc-Eye Hawk...


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