Yellow bullhead

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Yellow bullhead
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Siluriformes
Family: Ictaluridae
Genus: Ameiurus
A. natalis
Binomial name
Ameiurus natalis
(Lesueur, 1819)
  • Pimelodus natalis Lesueur, 1819
  • Silurus lividus Rafinesque, 1819
  • Silurus xanthocephalus Rafinesque, 1820
  • Silurus (Pimelodus) coenosus Richardson, 1837
  • Pimelodus felinus Girard, 1858
  • Pimelodus ailurus Girard, 1858
  • Pimelodus antoniensis Girard, 1858
  • Pimelodus catulus Girard, 1858
  • Pimelodus puma Girard, 1859
  • Amiurus erebennus Jordan, 1877
  • Amiurus bolli Cope, 1880
  • Amiurus prosthistius Cope, 1883

The yellow bullhead (Ameiurus natalis) is a species of bullhead catfish, a ray-finned fish that lacks scales.


The yellow bullhead is a medium-sized member of the catfish family. It is typically yellow-olive to slate black on the back and may appear mottled depending on its habitat. The sides are lighter and more yellowish, while the underside of the head and body are bright yellow, yellow white, or bright white. The rear edge of its caudal fin is rounded. The anal fin has anywhere between 24 and 27 constituent rays, more than that of other bullheads. The yellow bullhead can be easily distinguished from the brown bullhead (Ameiurus nebulosus) and black bullhead (A. melas) by the group of white barbels or "whiskers" under its chin. Yellow bullheads are medium-sized bullheads that rarely grow larger than 2 lb (0.91 kg), but can reach up to 6.375 lb (2.892 kg).[3] Yellow bullheads may grow to a maximum total length (TL) of 60 centimetres (24 in), though they are more commonly 22.5 centimetres (8.9 in) TL,[4] and can live up to 12 years.[5]


The yellow bullhead is a voracious scavenger that will almost eat anything. It locates prey by brushing the stream bottom with its barbels. Taste buds on the barbels tell the yellow bullhead whether or not contact is made with edible prey. They typically feed at night on a variety of plant and animal material, both live and dead, most commonly consisting of worms,[6] insects, snails, minnows, clams, crayfish, other small aquatic organisms, plant matter, and decaying animal matter. Compared to black and brown bullheads, yellow bullheads consume more aquatic vegetation.[6]


Yellow bullhead are bottom dwellers, living in areas with muck, rock, sand, or clay substrates. Its habitat includes river pools, backwaters, and sluggish current over soft or mildly rocky substrate in creeks, small to larger rivers, and shallow portions of lakes and ponds. Their habitat can vary from a slow current with poorly oxygenated, highly silted, and highly polluted[citation needed] water to a more swift current with clean and clear water that has aquatic vegetation. Fishermen often find them in sluggish creeks and rivers with a gravel bottom.

Reproduction and life cycle[edit]

Bullheads have a monogamous relationship with spawning beginning in mid-May or early-June, with both sexes participating in nest-building. Bullheads usually use a natural cavity or make saucer-shaped depressions near submerged cover, such as tree roots or sunken logs. The female will lay anywhere from 300 to 700 eggs at a time in a gelatinous mass, with up to 4300 eggs deposited into the nest in total.[6] After fertilization the male protects and continually fans the nest of eggs. The eggs hatch in 5 to 7 days on average.[6] Young fry are herded into tight schools by the male and are protected by both parents until they are approximately two inches long. They grow to about three inches by one year of age. Sexual maturity is achieved after two to three years, by which time the fish have reached 140 millimetres (5.5 in) in length.[6]


Yellow bullhead have a wide range across the central and eastern US from the Rio Grande River to North Dakota and south-eastern Canada, and east through the Great Lakes region to the East Coast.[6][7] They have also been introduced to the West[8] and can be caught as far up as northern Washington state.


Yellow bullheads are considered a minor game fish, and their meat is considered sweet and has a good flavor, but the meat can become soft in summer. They are not as sought after as other catfish. They can be caught on natural baits such as worms, crickets or chicken liver fished on the bottom at night.[8]


Named both Ictalurus natalis and Ameiurus natalis. Ictalurus, Greek, meaning "fish cat"; Ameiurus, Greek, meaning "privative curtailed," in reference to the caudal fin lacking a notch; natalis, Latin, meaning "of birth."[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ NatureServe (2013). "Ameiurus natalis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2013: e.T202675A2746631. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2013-1.RLTS.T202675A2746631.en. Retrieved 12 November 2021.
  2. ^ William Eschmeyer. "Catalogue of Fishes". California Academy of Sciences. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
  3. ^ Low, Jim (9 June 2006). "Yellow Bullhead Could Blow Existing World Record Out Of The Water". Southeastern Outdoors. Retrieved 29 May 2022.
  4. ^ Froese, Rainer; Pauly, Daniel (eds.) (2023). "Ameiurus natalis" in FishBase. May 2023 version.
  5. ^ Murie, D.J.; Parkyn, D.C.; Loftus, W.F.; Nico, L.G. (2009). "Variable growth and longevity of yellow bullhead (Ameiurus natalis) in the Everglades of south Florida, USA" (PDF). Journal of Applied Ichthyology. 25 (6): 740–745. doi:10.1111/j.1439-0426.2009.01300.x.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Jenkins, Gabe (2005). Dewey, Tanya; Harrel, Sherry (eds.). "Ameiurus natalis Bullhead (Also: Yellow Bullhead)". Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved 12 July 2022.
  7. ^ "Yellow Bullhead (Ameiurus natalis)". Texas Parks & Wildlife. Retrieved 25 July 2022.
  8. ^ a b "Yellow Bullhead". Arizona Game and Fish Department. 2023. Archived from the original on 26 March 2023.
  9. ^ Scharpf, Christopher (2020). "Lost in Translation: The True Meaning of Natalis in the Name of the Yellow Bullhead Ameiurus natalis" (PDF). American Currents. North American Native Fishes Association. 45 (2): 11–17. Retrieved 19 July 2022.

Other sources[edit]

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