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New Jersey Endangered and Threatened Species Field Guide

Image of Shield darter.Zoom+ Shield darter. Photo courtesy of Shawn Crouse.

Shield darter

Percina peltata

Species Group: Fish

Conservation Status

State: Special Concern



The species grows to about 3 ½ inches in length. The body is olive to tan above with 6-7 horizontally rectangular black blotches on its side, usually joined by a narrow black stripe. Wavy brown lines join 8-11 dark saddles on back to dark blotches on side. There is a black spot below the center of the caudal fin base and a large black teardrop on the head. There is also a row of black crescents along the base of the first dorsal fin.

Image of Range of the shield darter in New Jersey.Zoom+ Range of the shield darter in New Jersey.


This species inhabits the Susquehanna River watershed from as far north as southern New York to drainages around the northern Chesapeake, as well as portions of northwestern New Jersey and northern and central Virginia.

Habitat includes gravel and sand riffles and runs of creeks and small to medium rivers. Most common over fine gravel on downstream side of rubble riffles.


This species feeds on small terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates.


Shield darters spawn between April and late May. Eggs are buried in gravel and individuals are sexually mature in one year.


This species has a limited range in New Jersey and populations within the state are small. It is relatively intolerant of habitat degradation or poor water quality. Although populations appear to be stable within the Delaware River and some tributaries, other populations in the state have been and will continue to decline due to degradation of habitat and water quality.

In 2016, the New Jersey Endangered and Nongame Advisory Committee recommended a Special Concern status for this species, but no formal rule proposal has been filed to date.

Text written by Michael J. Davenport in 2016.


  • Arndt, Rudolf G. 2004. “Annotated Checklist and Distribution of New Jersey Freshwater Fishes, With Comments on Abundance.” The Bulletin: New Jersey Academy of Scince. Vol. 49, No. 1.
  • Page, Lawrence M. and B.M. Burr. 2011. Peterson Field Guide to Freshwater Fishes of North America North of Mexico.
Scientific Classification

Kingdom: Animalia
    Phylum: Chordata
       Class: Actinopterygii
          Order: Perciformes
             Family: Percidae
                Genus: Percina
                   Species: P. peltata

Find Related Info: Fish, Special concern

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Download the complete list of New Jersey's Endangered, Threatened, & Special Concern species.