Magpie Perch, Pseudogoniistius nigripes Richardson 1850

Other Names: Black-striped Morwong, Magpie Morwong

A juvenile Magpie Perch, Pseudogoniistius nigripes, at Rapid Bay Jetty, South Australia, December 2003. Source: Erik Schlogl / License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial

A morwong with two broad black bands on the body and a band on the head through the eye. One of the bands on the body may be pale grey in some individuals, and juveniles have a reddish tail that darkens with maturity. Individuals can rapidly change colour by lightening the dark bands.
This species was previously known as Cheilodactylus nigripes.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2021, Pseudogoniistius nigripes in Fishes of Australia, accessed 19 Apr 2024,

Magpie Perch, Pseudogoniistius nigripes Richardson 1850

More Info


Southern Australia, from Sydney, New South Wales, to Albany, Western Australia, including northern Tasmania and the Bass Strait islands. Elsewhere the species occasionally occurs in eastern and northern New Zealand, where it is apparently transported as epipelagic larvae and post-larvae across the Tasman Sea.
Inhabits protected and exposed coastal reefs, with turfing algae; also shelters in crevices, caves and among macroalgae. Juveniles occur more commonly in sheltered areas such as bays, coastal rock pools, and around jetties and piers.


Dorsal fin  XVIII, 24-28; Anal fin III, 10; Caudal fin 15; Pectoral fin 13; Pelvic fin I, 5; Lateral line scales 65-70; Vertebrae 35
Body robust, compressed, head profile concave with a pair of small "horns" in front of the eyes; lips thick, rubbery; lower pectoral-fin rays thickened and elongate. 


Body with three broad black bands, the first on the head, the second encircling the body behind the head and the third crossing the anal fin and soft dorsal fin. The middle band is dark in some individuals and light grey in others and the reddish tail of juveniles darkens with maturity. 


Feeds by sucking benthic invertebrates such as molluscs and polychaete worms from the bottom sediment and patches of turf algae.


Occasionally taken by recreational fishers.


Although common on southern reefs, Magpie Perch are not commonly taken by anglers because they feed on benthic invertebrates sucked from the bottom sediment and from patches of turf algae.


The specific name nigripes is from the Latin niger (= black), and pes (= foot) in reference to the “pitch-black” pelvic fins of this species.

Species Citation

Cheilodactylus nigripes Richardson 1850, Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 18: 66. Type locality: King George Sound, Western Australia.


Bray, D.J. 2021


Atlas of Living Australia

Magpie Perch, Pseudogoniistius nigripes Richardson 1850


Allen, G.R. & Heemstra, P.C. 1976. Cheilodactylus rubrolabiatus, a new species of morwong (Pisces: Cheilodactylidae) from Western Australia, with a key to cheilodactylid fishes of Australia. Records of the Western Australian Museum 4(4): 311-325. (as Cheilodactylus nigripes) See ref online 

Ayling, T. & Cox, G.J. 1982. Collins Guide to the Seafishes of New Zealand. Auckland : Collins 343 pp. 48 pls 475 figs. (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Burridge, C.P. & White, R.W.G. 2000. Molecular phylogeny of the antitropical subgenus Goniistius (Perciformes: Cheilodactylidae: Cheilodactylus): evidence for multiple transequatorial divergences and non-monophyly. Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 70: 435-458,

Cappo, M. 1995. The population biology of the temperate reef fish Cheilodactylus nigripes in an artificial reef environment. Transactions of the Royal Society of South Africa 119: 113–122. (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Connell, S.D. 2002. Effects of a predator and prey on a foraging reef fish: implications for understanding density-dependent growth. Journal of Fish Biology 60: 1551-1561. (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Edgar, G.J. 2008. Australian Marine Life: the plants and animals of temperate waters. Sydney : Reed New Holland 2, 624 pp. (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Francis, M. 2001. Coastal Fishes of New Zealand. Auckland : Reed Publishing (NZ) 3, 103 pp. (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Grant, E.M. 1991. Fishes of Australia. Brisbane : EM Grant Pty Ltd 480 pp. (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Harvey, E.S., Butler, J.J., McLean, D.L. & Shand, J. 2012. Contrasting habitat use of diurnal and nocturnal fish assemblages in temperate Western Australia. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 426-427: 78-86,

Hutchins, J.B. 2001. Biodiversity of shallow reef fish assemblages in Western Australia using a rapid censusing technique. Records of the Western Australian Museum 20: 247-270. (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Hutchins, J.B. & Thompson, M. 1983. The Marine and Estuarine Fishes of South-western Australia. Perth : Western Australian Museum 103 pp. 345 figs. (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Kimura, K., Imamura, H. & Kawai, T. 2018. Comparative morphology and phylogenetic systematics of the families Cheilodactylidae and Latridae (Perciformes: Cirrhitoidea), and proposal of a new classification. Zootaxa 4536(1): 1-72,  (as Goniistius nigripes)  

Kuiter, R.H. 1993. Coastal Fishes of South-eastern Australia. Bathurst : Crawford House Press 437 pp.

Kuiter, R.H. 1994. Family Cheilodactylidae. pp. 644-655, figs 566-574 in Gomon, M.F., Glover, C.J.M. & Kuiter, R.H. (eds). The Fishes of Australia's South Coast. Adelaide : State Printer 992 pp. 810 figs. (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Kuiter, R.H. & Kuiter, S.L. 2018. Fish watchers guide to coastal sea-fishes of south-eastern Australia. Seaford, Victoria : Aquatic Photographics, 371 pp. (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Last, P.R., Scott, E.O.G. & Talbot, F.H. 1983. Fishes of Tasmania. Hobart : Tasmanian Fisheries Development Authority 563 pp. figs. (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Ludt, W.B., Burridge, C.P. & Chakrabarty, P. 2019. A taxonomic revision of Cheilodactylidae and Latridae (Centrarchiformes: Cirrhitoidei) using morphological and genomic characters. Zootaxa 4585 (1): 121–141,

May, J.L. & Maxwell, G.J.H. 1986. Trawl fish from temperate waters of Australia. Tasmania : CSIRO Division of Fisheries Research, 492 pp. (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Neira, F. J. 2005. Summer and winter plankton fish assemblages around offshore oil and gas platforms in south-eastern Australia. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 63: 589-604, (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Randall, J.E. 1983. A review of the fishes of the subgenus Goniistius, genus Cheilodactylus, with description of a new species from Easter Island and Rapa. Occasional Papers of Bernice P. Bishop Museum 25(7): 1-24. (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Richardson, J. 1850. Notices of Australian fish. Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 18: 58-77 figs 1-3. See ref at BHL

Roberts, C.D. 2015. 199 Family Cheilodactylidae, pp. 1347-1357, in Roberts, C.D., Stewart, A.L. & Struthers, C.D. (eds) The Fishes of New Zealand. Wellington : Te Papa Press Vol. 4 pp. 1153-1748. (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Roberts, C.D. & Gomon, M.F. 2008. Families Cheilodactylidae and Latridae. pp. 624-632 in Gomon. M.F., Bray, D.J. & Kuiter, R.H (eds). Fishes of Australia's Southern Coast. Sydney : Reed New Holland 928 pp. (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Russell, B. & Holleman, W. 2020. Goniistius nigripes. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2020: e.T143615229A143615878. Downloaded on 23 March 2021.

Saville-Kent, W. 1888. Notes on the identity of certain Tasmanian fishes. Papers and Proceedings of the Royal Society of Tasmania 1887: 47-48 (described as Chilodactylus vizonarius) See ref  online

Scott, T.D., Glover, C.J.M. & Southcott, R.V. 1974. The Marine and Freshwater Fishes of South Australia. Adelaide : Government Printer 392 pp. figs. (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Wellenreuther, M. & Connell, S.D. 2002. Response of predators to prey abundance: separating the effects of prey density and patch size. Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology 273: 61–71 (as Cheilodactylus nigripes)

Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37377001

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:1-65 m

Habitat:Reef associated

Max Size:41 cm TL

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map