Bird of the Week, July 22, 2011
rufa Red Knot

Red Knot by Mike Parr

Red Knots are long-distance migrant shorebirds—most of the rufa subspecies travel over 9,000 miles each way between their primary wintering grounds in Tierra del Fuego and their breeding areas in the arctic. During migration, they gather in large flocks at traditional “staging areas”.  One of the most important of these is Delaware Bay, where knots and other shorebirds gather each spring to feed on horseshoe crab eggs, building up the body fat needed to fuel the remainder of their journey and breed successfully.


There has been a severe, ongoing decline in the rufa Red Knot population over the last few decades, largely due to the over-harvesting of horseshoe crabs, which have become popular as fishing bait, and potential, as-yet unidentified threats on the birds’ South American wintering grounds. A recent study, conducted in Chile in the winter of 2011, showed that numbers at one major wintering site had declined by at least 5,000 birds from the previous year (one third of the population).


ABC and other conservation groups petitioned the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to list the rufa Red Knot under the Endangered Species Act in 2005, and have continued to highlight the species’ decline and to push for its protection.  Persistence finally paid off this July, when FWS announced that it was fast-tracking ESA listing, now expected to be finalized in 2013.


Learn more and help support ABC's efforts to conserve the rufa Red Knot.

Photo: Red Knot by Mike Parr; Range Map: ABC