With the addition of a new pond to Hitchcock Nature Center comes the addition of new types of aquatic wildlife to share this area with. One such group is the genus Lepomis, or sunfish as they are more commonly known.
The name Lepomis means “scaled gill cover”, which is also known as the operculum which can be used for respiration and feeding. Most fish in this group do not break a pound in weight and only reach an average length of about 3-7 inches. While coming in a variety of colors, these fish tend to have flat bodies, powerful tails, and small pectoral fins they use to maneuver themselves in the water. Members of this genus include Bluegills, Pumpkinseeds, Spotted Sunfish, Green Sunfish, Warmouth, Longear Sunfish, Redear Sunfish, and Redbreast Sunfish.
Sunfish are sight-based predators, relying mostly on their eyes to catch their prey which may include insects, larvae, crayfish, snails, molluscs, fish eggs, and sometimes even other small fish. They will also feed on algae and aquatic vegetation making these fish omnivores.
Spawning season for these fish can last from mid spring to early fall, during which they are at their most aggressive. Male Sunfish will establish a territory close to shore and construct a nest by sweeping their tails across the sand, gavel, or other debris. After this, they will court a female and protect the subsequent eggs and young through the spawning period.
A fun fish to observe, fish for, and catch if you ever get the chance!
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