Conserving the Nature of America

News Release

Red knot named candidate for Endangered Species Act protection

September 12, 2006


Division of Public Affairs
External Affairs
Telephone: 703-358-2220

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced today it has designated the red knot, a migratory bird, as a candidate for Endangered Species Act protection. The announcement was published in today's "Federal Register" as part of the annual Candidate Notice of Review, an appraisal of the list of plants and animals that may warrant protection under the Act.

In 2004 the Service initiated a status review for the red knot through the internal candidate assessment process, according to Marvin Moriarty, Northeast regional director for the Service. The candidate determination also serves as a response to petitions subsequently filed requesting protection under the Act. The Northeast Pennsylvania Audubon Society requested emergency Endangered Species Act protection for the Atlantic coast population of the red knot. In 2005, the Service received two additional petitions - one initiated by Defenders of Wildlife, and one initiated by the Delaware Riverkeeper Network - both requesting emergency protection. In response to the petitions, the Service found that the red knot does not warrant temporary protection under the Act's emergency provision because the threat to the bird is not imminent, although its population has experienced a significant decline.

"The Service's decision acknowledges the need to protect the red knot, but stops short of proposing the bird for protection under the Act," Moriarty said. "We have long been concerned about the status of red knots, but we have hope for the future of the species. The strong conservation actions initiated by the states of New Jersey and Delaware have reduced threats to red knots at their migratory stopover in Delaware Bay. The most recent numbers of red knots there and in their South American wintering grounds remain similar to 2005 numbers, indicating that the declining population trend may have stabilized."

Protection of the red knot is warranted but precluded by other, higher priority activities. This means the proposal for protection is deferred while the Service works on protection for other species that are at greater risk. The finding requires subsequent annual reviews until either a listing proposal is published or a "not warranted" finding is made based on new information

The rufa subspecies of red knot, a kind of sandpiper, winters near the tip of South America and begins its long journey north in mid-February. Large numbers of red knots arrive at Delaware Bay beginning in mid-May. By the time the birds arrive, they have depleted their fat reserves and must refuel before continuing their migration to their Arctic breeding grounds. The birds rely heavily on the eggs of horseshoe crabs to replenish their energy. At the end of May or the beginning of June, the birds depart the mid-Atlantic coast on the last leg of their journey, arriving in the Arctic in early to mid-June.

For further information about red knots, see

The national news release on the Candidate Notice of Review is at The "Federal Register" notice may be seen at

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 95-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System, which encompasses 545 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 69 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resources offices and 81 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign and Native American tribal governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Assistance program, which distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.


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