Atlantic Flying Gurnard (Dactylopterus volitans)

Also known as Batfish, Flying Fish, Grunt Fish, Helmet Gurnard, Sea Robin


Also known as Batfish, Flying Fish, Grunt Fish, Helmet Gurnard, Sea Robin.

Found resting, or "flying" over mud, rock, and sandy bottoms, foraging for food with their Pectoral fins, over coral and rocky reefs. Can vary in depth of colour when threatened.
They feed on clams, crustaceans, and small fish.
Length - 50cm
Depth - 1-100m
Widespread Eastern Atlantic, Western Atlantic, Caribbean, Mediterranean

The Flying Gurnard has huge, round Pectoral fins. The fins are usually held against the body, but when threatened they can expand their wings (fins) to scare off a predator.
The pelvic fins act like legs as the fish walks along the bottom of the ocean. They also grunt. French term for the word Gurnard means to grunt. Ref:


  1. Posted by Victor
    June 16, 2017 at 14:40 pm - 1 person found this useful.

    Saw this gurnard fish in Koolina lagoon, Oahu, Hawaii, today. Had to research it to find out what it was. Guess it's in the Pacific also.

  2. Posted by Cathy
    February 24, 2016 at 03:50 am - 1 person found this useful.

    While in Hilo,Hawaii, I photographed this fish. Nobody I talked to has ever seen it and did not know what it might be. It was in the Japanese Gardens in Hilo and the date was Feb12,2016.

  3. Posted by Jonathan lee
    August 27, 2015 at 04:11 am - 1 person found this useful.

    I am currently on holiday in kiotari, Rhodes and spent about 45minutes today following one of these whilst snorkeling in about 3-5m of water. Fascinating watching it feed on whatever it was finding under small rocks!

  4. Posted by Roberta L. Raymond
    September 11, 2014 at 14:24 pm - 1 person found this useful.

    I have observed these fish a lot in Cayman Islands and Jamaica. The forward fins really look like hands and are used to hunt in the sand. To me they look like a fish evolving to be something else....almost lizard like and ready to emerge from the water. Do the "hands" have 5 appendages like fingers? There is not enough information about this fascinating fish. They seem very gentle and if you are very calm and quiet, they let you observe them before they float away.

  5. Posted by Adrian Clarke
    August 21, 2014 at 06:00 am - 1 person found this useful.

    I have seen this fish on the North Coast of Cyprus in depths of around 5m. I was facinated by its unusual form

  6. Posted by Joyce
    November 14, 2013 at 04:53 am - 1 person found this useful.

    I was snorkelling and saw a flying gurnard in shallow water in a reef area in Cancun. The gurnard moved slowly along the sandy bottom which had many small rocks. Sometimes the gurnard swam, other times it moved ahead using its forward fins as hands. I saw it push over several small rocks in its path and it got a tasty treat under one small rock. I moved over top and I spread my wings (arms) and it spread its wings in response.

  7. Posted by Demos
    July 17, 2013 at 02:59 am - 1 person found this useful.

    I've seen five big flying gurnards while spear fishing in the Corinthian Gulf in Greece. Could have easily shot all of them, but didn't have the heart. They are beautiful and seem quite intelligent.

  8. Posted by geoff 3
    July 06, 2013 at 03:29 am - 1 person found this useful.

    Caught a flying gurnard in 60ft water using a sprat just of the coast of Mazarron Spain at La Athoria today at 4.30pm. No fight but was happy to catch such a pretty fish at about 2lbs so put it back in the Med.

  9. In the Indo Pacific this fish is known by another name, but is essentially the same fish, see link.

  10. Posted by Allie
    April 04, 2012 at 20:59 pm - 1 person found this useful.

    I have spotted the Flying Gurnard in a specific area in Tanzania. I guess they are wider spread than we thought.

  11. Posted by Alain MOREL
    June 28, 2011 at 17:25 pm - 1 person found this useful.

    In the lagoons of Rezunion especially in St Pierre you can find this fish it is named Grondin Volant in French

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