Picture by Chad Thomas, Texas State University-San Marcos



Notropis bairdi

Red River shiner



Type Locality

Red River, 10-14.5 km southwest of Hollis, Harman, Co., Oklahoma (Hubbs and Ortenburger 1929; Gilbert 1980).


Etymology/Derivation of Scientific Name

Notropis – ridged or keeled back; a misnomer, probably due to the shrunken specimen used by Rafinesque when establishing this genus for N. atherinoides (Scharpf 2005); bairdi – named for Spencer Fullerton Baird, an early student of the fishes of the southwest, and one of the outstanding figures in American zoology (Hubbs and Ortenburger 1929).



Notropis bairdi Hubbs and Ortenburger 1929:29.



Maximum size: 64 mm (2.52 in) SL (Gilbert 1980).


Coloration: Color generally pale, appears somewhat grayish above due to pigment outlining the dorsolateral scales; the lower half of body tends to be silvery (Miller and Robison 2004). Middorsal stripe conspicuously interrupted in base of dorsal fin, producing a dark dash at base of dorsal fin (Hubbs et al. 1991). Peritonium bright silvery, with black punctulations (Hubbs and Ortenburger 1929).


Counts: Pharyngeal teeth 2,4-4,2 or 1,4-4,1; usually 7 anal fin soft rays; 8 dorsal fin soft rays;15 pectoral fin soft rays (Hubbs and Ortenburger 1929; Hubbs et al. 1991); 33-37 lateral line scales (Page and Burr 1991).


Mouth position: Terminal and oblique (Blair et al. 1957; Hubbs et al. 1991).


Body shape: Deep bodied and somewhat compressed.  Snout conical (Miller and Robison 2004).


Morphology: Snout length shorter than distance from anterior tip of mandible to posterior tip of maxillary; head depth 17.4-19.5% of standard length; opercle length 9.5-11.4% of standard length; depth at occiput equal to or less than width at occiput; eye small, contained about four times in body depth (measured over curve); distance from origin of anal fin to end of caudal peduncle contained two and one-half or fewer times in distance from tip of snout to origin of anal fin (Hubbs et al. 1991). Lateral line usually nearly or fully complete; lateral line usually not decurved, either straight or with a broad arch (Hubbs and Ortenburger 1929; Hubbs et al. 1991); dorsal fin more triangular, last fin ray less than one-half length of the longest; first obvious dorsal fin ray a thin splint, closely attached to the following well developed but unbranched ray; lower lip thin, without fleshy lobes; premaxillaries protractile; upper lip separated from skin of snout by a deep groove continuous across the midline (Hubbs et al. 1991); nape naked or largely devoid of scales, but when mostly present, they are crowded before dorsal; pectoral fins in male long and falcate, often reaching to pelvic base (Hubbs and Ortenburger 1929; Blair et al. 1957; Miller and Robison 2004). Nuptial tubercles are developed on top of the head in nearly ripe males, but are fine and weak (Hubbs and Ortenburger 1929).  Intestine short, forming a simple S-shaped loop (Hubbs et al. 1991).


Distribution (Native and Introduced)

U.S. distribution: Endemic to Red River drainage of northern Texas, southern Oklahoma, and extreme southwestern Arkansas; a distributional anomaly may be noted with regard to record from upper Washita River, Rogers Mill Co., Oklahoma (Gilbert 1980). Introduced in the Cimarron River between 1964 and 1972, and is now firmly established (Marshall 1978; Felley and Cothran 1981; Luttrell et al 1995); specimens have been taken from the Arkansas, Salt Fork, and North and South Canadian rivers, but persistent populations have yet to be verified (Luttrell et al. 1995; Pigg et al. 1997; Miller and Robison 2004).


Texas distribution: Endemic to Red River drainage of northern Texas (Hubbs 1957; Hubbs et al. 1991; Gilbert 1980). Warren et al. (2000) listed distribution for this species as Red River (from the mouth upstream to and including the Kiamichi River).


[Additional literature noting collection of this species from Texas locations includes, but is not limited to the following: Wilde and Gaines (2006).]


Abundance/Conservation status (Federal, State, Non-governmental organizations)

Currently stable (Warren et al. 2000). Winston et al. (1991) provided evidence of the drastic decline and possible extirpation of this species upstream of Altus Dam on the North Fork, a tributary of the Red River in southwestern Oklahoma. Cross et al. (1983) reported that the species has become common throughout the Cimarron River in Oklahoma and Kansas. According to Gilbert (1980), species extremely abundant in upper parts of the Red River drainage down to just above mouth of Washita River in south-central Oklahoma; decreases markedly in abundance below this point, with downstream records sporadic and apparently based on scattered individuals that have drifted, or been washed downstream. Riggs and Bonn (1959) stated that in Lake Texoma, Oklahoma-Texas, the species was rarely found in the lake and headwaters; collected only in Buncombe Creek and at Delaware Bend.


Habitat Associations

Macrohabitat: Inhabits major streams, principally in the High Plains section of drainages (Cross et al. 1983).


Mesohabitat: Typically found in turbid waters of broad, shallow channels of main stream, over bottom mostly of silt and shifting sand (Gilbert 1980); streambeds with widely fluctuating flows subject to high summer temperatures, high rates of evaporation, and high concentrations of dissolved solids (Cross et al. 1983). Species is tolerant of high salinities (Taylor et al. 1993; Higgins and Wilde 2005). Echelle et al. (1972) collected this species in the Red River drainage at salinities ranging from .4-21.7 ppt; found to be abundant at site where salinity was 20 ppt.; occurred primarily in shallow depressions in the current, along the edges of deeper pools, and in deeper areas of shallow backwaters. Habitat notes recorded for bairdi series KU 18474 (obtained from Cimarron River, Kansas, 1958) included water temperature of 38°C (100.4°F), specimens collected from main channel, mean depth 198 mm (7.80 in), current 0.5 m/sec (1.64 ft/sec), sand substrate (Cross et al. 1983). N. bairdi characteristic of backwaters, in Cimarron River, Oklahoma sampling (Felley and Cothran 1981). Mean absolute swimming speed for individuals 35.1-57.7 mm SL measured 45.6 (± 4.96) cm/s-1 (Leavy 2004).



Biology and life history not studied, but are presumably very similar to those of the Arkansas River shiner (Notropis girardi) (Moore 1944; Gilbert 1980; Cross et al. 1983).


Spawning season: Hubbs and Ortenburger (1929) stated that this species is a summer-spawner, as no young were collected among the hundreds of ripe or nearly-ripe adults taken from June 16-26. Cross et al. (1983) inferred that this species spawns once annually, within brief interval.


Spawning habitat: No information at this time.


Spawning behavior: Group spawning (Pyron 2000).


Fecundity: Information based on N. bairdi series KU 18474 (obtained from Cimarron River, Kansas, 1958; preserved in 70% ethanol): number of well developed ova ranged from 1520-3314 and egg diameter from females 42-54 mm (1.65-2.13 in) SL ranged from 0.71-0.76 mm (0.028-0.030 in); species seems to have high fecundity compared to ten other Notropis species; ova nearly uniform in size within gonads of specimens (Cross et al. 1983).


Age/size at maturation: Females as small as 24 mm (0.94 in) TL to caudal were full of ripe eggs (Hubbs and Ortenburger 1929). Females mature at 39 mm (1.54 in) TL (Cross et al. 1983; Gotelli and Pyron 1991).


Migration: No information at this time.


Growth and Population structure:  No information at this time.


Longevity: No information at this time.


Food habits: Food items recorded from stomachs of five females in N. bairdi series KU 18474 consisted mainly of terrestrial insects (Cross et al. 1983). Gut contents of specimens 40-50 mm (1.57-2.00 in) SL contained mainly invertebrates and very little bottom sediment; small amounts of substrate material suggest that some animals may be obtained from the bottom (Echelle et al. 1972).


Phylogeny and morphologically similar fishes

Notropis bairdi is very closely related to the smalleye shiner (N. buccula), which is endemic to adjacent Brazos River drainage, Texas; these species along with the Arkansas River shiner (N. girardi; of Arkansas River drainage) form close group whose precise relationships to other Notropis species are not entirely clear (Cross 1953; Gilbert 1980). N. bairdi differs from N. buccula in having a shorter rounded snout versus longer snout; larger eye (mouth ends behind front of eye) versus smaller eye (mouth ends in front of eye); and broad, flat head versus shallower head (Page and Burr 1991). N. bairdi differs from N. girardi in that it has an anal ray count of 7 versus 8, its dorsal fin height (length of 1st ray) is shorter than the pectoral fin and shorter than head length versus equal to length of pectoral fin and equal to or greater than head length; also the nape, immediately behind occiput of N. bairdi is naked, or with scales embedded, while that of N. girardi is scaled; N. bairdi attains a larger size than N. girardi (standard length 62 vs. 49 mm, 2.44 vs. 1.93 in), and is more robust in body form (Cross 1970; Cross et al. 1983). N. bairdi differs from the Sabine shiner (N. sabinae) at least in the crowding of the scales before the dorsal and their usual absence on the nape, and in the smaller size of the eye; also the dorsal fin is inserted farther back, usually a little behind instead of before the middle of the standard length (Hubbs and Ortenburger 1929). The caudal peduncle of N. bairdi is deeper than in most of the other pale-colored riverine shiners; an anal ray count of 7 separates this species from the mimic shiner (N. volucellus), and the ghost shiner (N. buchanani), and the 0, 4-4,0 pharyngeal tooth count separates it from the river shiner (N. blennius) and the chub shiner (N. potteri), which have two rows of pharyngeal teeth; it differs from the sand shiner (N. stramineus) in having a much larger mouth, deeper body, smaller eye, lack of pigmented dashes above and below the pores on the lateral line scales, and much more crowded scales before the dorsal fin (Miller and Robison 2004).


Host Records

 No information at this time.


Commercial or Environmental Importance

Interactions with the introduced and closely related, Notropis bairdi, may be related to the decline of the Arkansas River shiner (N. girardi) in its native range (Felley and Cothran 1981; Bestgen et al. 1989). Establishment of N. bairdi in the South Canadian River may pose a serious threat to the last native population of the Arkansas River shiner (Luttrell et al. 1995).



Bestgen, K.R., S.P. Platania, J.E. Brooks, and D.L. Propst. 1989. Dispersal and life history traits of Notropis girardi (Cypriniformes: Cyprinidae), introduced into the Pecos River, New Mexico. American Midland Naturalist 122(2):228-235.

Blair, W.F., A.P. Blair, P. Brodkorb, F.R. Cagle, and G.A Moore. 1957. Vertebrates of the United States. McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. 819 pp.

Cross, F.B. 1953. A new minnow, Notropis bairdi buccula, from the Brazos River, Texas. The Texas Journal of Science 1953(2):252-259.

Cross, F.B. 1970. Occurrence of the Arkansas River shiner, Notropis girardi Hubbs and Ortenburger, in the Red River System. The Southwestern Naturalist 14(3):370.

Cross, F.B., O.T. Gorman, and S.G. Haslouer. 1983. The red river shiner, Notropis bairdi, in Kansas with notes on depletion of its Arkansas River cognate, Notropis girardi. Trans. Kansas. Acad. Sci. 86(2/3):93-98.

Echelle, A.A., A.F. Echelle, and L.G. Hill. 1972. Interspecific interactions and limiting factors of abundance and distribution in the Red River pupfish, Cyprinodon rubrofluviatilis. American Midland Naturalist 88(1):109-130.

Felley, J.D., and E.G. Cothran. 1981. Notropis bairdi (Cyprinidae) in the Cimarron River, Oklahoma. Southwestern Naturalist 25:564.

Gilbert, C.R.  1980.  Notropis bairdi (Hubbs and Ortenburger), Red River shiner.  p. 236.  In: D. S. Lee, C. R. Gilbert, C. H. Hocutt, R. E. Jenkins, D. E. McAllister & J. R. Stauffer, Jr. (eds.), Atlas of North American freshwater fishes, North Carolina State Museum of Natural History, Raleigh, 854 pp.

Gotelli, N.J., and M. Pyron. 1991. Life history variation in North American freshwater minnows: effects of latitude and phylogeny. Oikos 62(1):30-40.

Higgins, C.L., and G.R. Wilde. 2005. The role of salinity in structuring fish assemblages in a prairie stream system. Hydrobiologia 549:197-203.

Hubbs, C. 1957. Distributional patterns of Texas fresh-water fishes. The Southwestern Naturalist 2(2/3):89-104.

Hubbs, C., R.J. Edwards, and G.P. Garrett. 1991. An annotated checklist of the freshwater fishes of Texas, with keys to identification of species. Texas Journal of Science, Supplement 43(4):1-56.

Hubbs, C.L., and A.I. Ortenburger. 1929. Further notes on the fishes of Oklahoma with descriptions of new species of cyprinidae. Publ. Univ. Okla. Biol. Surv. 1(2):17-43.

Leavy, T.R. 2004. Relationships among swimming ability, habitat use, and morphology of freshwater fishes from Texas and Louisiana. M.S. Thesis, Texas State University – San Marcos, San Marcos. 40 pp.

Luttrell, G.R., D.M. Underwood, W.L. Fisher, and J. Pigg. 1995. Distribution of the Red River shiner, Notropis bairdi, in the Arkansas River drainage. Proc. Okla. Acad. Sci. 75:61-62..

Marshall, C.L. 1978. The distribution of Notropis bairdi along the Cimarron River in Logan County, Oklahoma. Proc. Okla. Acad. Sci. 58:109.

Miller, R.J., and H.W. Robison. 2004. Fishes of Oklahoma. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman. 450 pp.

Moore, G.A. 1944. Notes on the early life history of Notropis girardi. Copeia 1944(4):209-214.

Page, L. M. & B. M. Burr.  1991.  A field guide to freshwater fishes of North America north of Mexico.  Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, Massachusetts. 432 pp.

Pigg, J., M. Coleman, and R. Gibbs. 1997. Temporal and spatial distribution of cyprinid fishes between 1921 and 1995 in the North Canadian River Drainage, Oklahoma. Proc. Okla. Acad. Sci. 77:43-92.

Pyron, M. 2000. Testes mass and reproductive mode of minnows. Behav. Ecol. Sociobiol. 48:132-136.

Riggs, C.D., and E.W. Bonn. 1959. An annotated list of the fishes of Lake Texoma, Oklahoma and Texas. The Southwestern Naturalist 4(4):157-168.

Scharpf, C. 2005. Annotated checklist of North American freshwater fishes, including subspecies and undescribed forms, Part 1: Petromyzontidae through Cyprinidae. American Currents, Special Publication 31(4):1-44.

Taylor, C.M., M.R. Winston, and W.J. Matthews. 1993. Fish species-environment and abundance relationships in a Great Plains river system. Ecography 16:16-23.

Warren, M.L., Jr., B.M. Burr, S.J. Walsh, H.L. Bart, Jr., R.C. Cashner, D.A. Etnier, B.J. Freeman, B.R. Kuhajda, R.L. Mayden, H.W. Robison, S.T. Ross, and W.C. Starnes. 2000. Diversity, Distribution, and Conservation status of the native freshwater fishes of the southern United States. Fisheries 25(10):7-29.

Wilde, G.R., and B. Gaines. 2006. Identification of refugia habitat, faunal survey of collection areas, and monitoring of riparian and stream habitat and biotic communities in the Wichita River Basin, Texas. Final report submitted to Weston Solutions, Inc. and U.S. Corps of Engineers, Tulsa District. 238 pp.

Winston, M.R., C.M. Taylor, and J. Pigg. 1991. Upstream extirpation of four minnow species due to damming of a prairie stream. Trans. Amer. Fish. Soc. 120:98-105.