Smallhead Flyingfish

Smallhead Flyingfish, Cheilopogon pinnatibarbatus

The Smallhead Flyingfish, Cheilopogon pinnatibarbatus, whose Spanish common name is volador cabecita, is a species in the Flyingfish or Exocoetidae Family, known collectively as voladores in Mexico. Globally, there are twenty-four species in the genus Cheilopogon, nine of which are found in Mexican waters, four in the Atlantic and five in the Pacific.

The Smallhead Flyingfish have elongated slender cylindrical bodies. They are blue-green dorsally and silvery ventrally. Their fins are clear, except that their dorsal fin has one large dark spot and their pectoral fins are dark gray with a wide clear border. They have a short head, a short snout, and a small mouth equipped with small teeth with one point on both jaws. Their anal fin originates under the third dorsal ray and has 9 to 12 rays; their caudal fin is deeply forked with a longer lower lobe; their dorsal fin has 9 to 13 rays; and their pectoral fins are long and reach the caudal fin base. Their pelvic fins are long and almost reach the anal fin base; their origin is closer to the gill cover than the caudal fin base. Juveniles have a complex fan-like barbel with 14 flaps. Their lateral line is low on the body. They are covered with large smooth scales.

The Smallhead Flyingfish are an oceanic pelagic species normally found on the surface to depths of 35 feet; they frequent coastal waters more regularly than other flyingfish. They reach a maximum length of 28 cm (19 inches). They feed on planktonic organisms and small fish. In turn they are preyed upon by birds, dolphins, dorado, marlins, porpoises, squid, and tuna. They have large pectoral fins and are capable of leaping and gliding considerable distances above the ocean surface. Reproduction is oviparous with the release of large sticky filaments that attach to floating or benthic weeds. They are a poorly studied species and very little is known about their behavioral patterns.

In Mexican waters the Smallhead Flyingfish are a colder water flyingfish with a limited distribution being found along the west coast of Baja, in the southern third of the Sea of Cortez, and along the coast of the mainland south to Mazatlán.

The Smallhead Flyingfish can be confused with several flyingfish including the Blackwing Flyingfish, Hirundichthys rondeletii, the Bladewing Flyingfish, Hirundichthys marginatus, the Butterfly Flyingfish, Cheilopogon papilio, the Narrowhead Flyingfish, Cypselurus angusticeps, the Panamic Flyingfish, Prognichthys tringa, and the Sailor Flyingfish, Prognichthys sealei, however it is the only species with pectoral fins that extend to the caudal base.

The Smallhead Flyingfish are of limited interest to most.

Smallhead Flyingfish (1)Smallhead Flyingfish (2)Smallhead Flyingfish (3)

Smallhead Flyingfish, Cheilopogon pinnatibarbatus. Fish provided by the commercial fishermen of the greater San Diego area, San Diego, CA, September 2014. Length: 40 cm (16 inches).