• Size

    3 feet (91 cm)
  • Diet

    Sea urchins, crabs, lobsters and other hard-shelled prey
  • Range

    Eastern Pacific from about Monterey Bay and the Gulf of California
  • Habitat

    Rocky bottoms, particularly kelp forests

Physical Characteristics

  • Adult reaches maximum length of about 3 feet (91 cm).
  • Juvenile is bright royal orange in color with prominent blue dots at the fins and the base of the tail. The lower jaw is white and most individuals have a while line running from the mouth to the caudal fin.
  • As adults, males and females are sexually dimorphic.
  • Females are smaller and sleeker than males, solid red-orange above and white ventrally. Lower jaw is bright white.
  • Males are more robust, with significant bulging foreheads. In coloration, they are black at the head and tail, with an orange midsection. Lower jaw is bright white.

Diet / Feeding

  • Consumes primarily sea urchins, crabs, lobsters and other hard-shelled prey.

Range / Habitat

  • Occurs in the Eastern Pacific from about Monterey Bay and the Gulf of California.
  • Found over rocky bottoms, particularly kelp forests, at depths ranging to 180 feet (0-55 m), though most commonly 10-100 feet (~3-30 m).

Reproduction & Growth

  • During mating season (between July and September) male sheephead become territorial and defend their spawning territory.Dominant males lead the females in a circular pattern as they broadcast sperm and eggs, respectively.
  • The females spawn between 36,000 and 296,000 eggs, which hatch into larvae.
  • Spawning occurs most commonly during the summer months.

Conservation Status

  • “Vulnerable” on the IUCN Red List.

Additional Information

  • Sequential hermaphrodite (protogynous): each individual starts life as a female and then changes to male.
  • California sheephead has large, prominent teeth and can bite if handled improperly.
  • Common predators include harbor seals, California sea lions and various sea bird species.


Buy Tickets