Tacony Creek Creatures: Redbreast Sunfish

Intern Emmanuel Hampton completes his Tacony Creek Creatures series with North American River Otters. 

Stop by the River Alive Learning Trail to see the water snake, heron, fox, painted turtle, river otter,  and sunfish up close. River Alive Learning Trail free program information here.

Project: Tacony Creek Park Learning Trail, Client: William Penn Foundation

Check out the previous blogs in the series: Red FoxGreat Blue HeronPainted TurtleWater Snake, and River Otter.

Written by Emmanuel Hampton, TTF Intern

Tacony Creek Park has many different kinds of aquatic creatures. The most varied being the fish, and the Redbreast Sunfish is the most common and abundant of them all. 

Comparing the Readbreast with its green counterpart, it’s easy to see where it gets its name. The shiny scales and colorful sections get this fish its recognition.

Redbreast Sunfish aren’t really fierce but they are carnivorous. This means that their diet only consists of meat. With their small size, they are only able to eat things smaller than them. This usually includes shrimp, clams, crayfish, bottom-feeding larvae, and small fish like minnows. With small teeth only at the top of their mouths, there’s not much they can eat.

The fairly vibrant colors are its iconic identification. These scales do come in green but are then called Green Sunfish. These scales are colored in such a way to differentiate them from other fish so they know who the competition is. With so many different fish in the water, this is a potential problem the color of the scales solves.

Being freshwater fish, Sunfish are not able to withstand the salt levels of seawater so they are mostly found in rivers, lakes, and streams.

Like the trait of other fish, these aquatic creatures lay eggs instead of living young like mammals. This is to give the babies more time to develop necessary features that are harder to develop like scales, scale color, eyes adapted for color and water, fins etc. A female can lay between 1,000 to 10,000 eggs per mating season. No wonder they are the most abundant! 

The well-known fish trait of having gills, allows them to filter the oxygen they need from the water, keeping their lungs inflated. When they’re out of water there’s too much oxygen and not enough hydrogen. The gravity also flattens their lungs when out of the water, so they stay away from the top edges of the body of water.

Redbreast Sunfish are not exactly ferocious but they aren’t afraid to defend themselves or go down without a fight. When people are fishing, they usually tend to catch a Sunfish that gives them a “good fight.” They are classified as “territorially aggressive,” meaning they are aggressive only when their space is intruded and this is to protect themselves and their nests.

Redbreast Sunfish are very common and abundant but that has some downsides. Many animals are capable of preying upon this medium-sized fish, even humans. For some if not most semi-aquatic animals, these fish are their main source of food since there are so many of them.

To remind you, 1,000 to 10,000 eggs are laid and fertilized each season so there is plenty to eat. This is very important for the survival of the other animals but at the same time, makes the Redbreast Sunfish a main target for food. These predators consist of otters, hawks, herons, red foxes, bears, and bigger fish.

With such reflective scales, you’re more likely to see these fish in the daytime. Maybe finding it will pique your interest. Keep Exploring in Tacony Creek Park! Tag us in your Redbreast Sunfish spottings! @TTFWatershed #TTFWatershed

Web Sources: NC Wildlife, FWC, CT.gov

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *