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A Talk on the Wild Side.

Delaware: Betting on Survival in Delaware Bay

A close-up of a red knot

A red knot tagged for research rests and refuels in Mispillion Harbor, Delaware. Climate changes such as sea-level rise and increasing storm intensity are adding challenges to red knot survival. Photo: Gregory Breese/USFWS.

Camera iconMore photos: Delaware Bay Estuary Project photoset on Flickr

Video iconRelated video: Crash: A Tale of Two Species on PBS.org

Not far from the casinos of Atlantic City, a different kind of wager takes place each May along the shores of Delaware Bay. 

That’s when red knots, birds the size of a coffee mug, stake their future on the eggs laid by tens of thousands of horseshoe crabs. Without enough crab eggs to fuel them, the long-distance fliers may not survive their 10,000-mile spring trek from the southern tip of South America to their Arctic breeding grounds.

In recent years, the red knots’ bet on the crab eggs has been more of a crapshoot. First, the over-harvesting of horseshoe crabs for bait caused an egg shortage. Now, scientists also point to a wild card.

“The peak of horseshoe crabs spawning in Delaware Bay has not always been aligned with the migration of the red knots,” said Gregory Breese, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s project leader for the Delaware Bay Estuary Project. “That could be related to climate change.”

Changing water temperatures in Delaware Bay and more frequent and intense storms appear to be disrupting the synchronization between the spawning of the crabs and the arrival of the red knots. When waters warm, the crabs lay their eggs earlier, and other creatures may beat red knots to the feast.


Two of NCTC's recent video productions touch on these topics --the new visitor video on Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge entitled, "America's Gem on the Delaware," and an upcoming video for Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge.
# Posted By David Klinger | 5/3/11 10:15 AM


Thank you for sharing. If available, please post links to the videos mentioned here.
# Posted By Leith Edgar, USFWS | 5/4/11 12:28 PM

A link to the Fish and Wildlife Service's new visitor video for Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge in Delaware:
# Posted By David Klinger | 5/11/11 5:28 PM

I lived in Southern New Jersey for years and remember the time of year when the horseshoe crabs would show on the Bay. I would love to see the 2 <a href="http://janisdigitalmedia.com">video productions</a> that the previous poster was talking about. Definitely would be worth watching...
# Posted By John B. | 8/3/11 10:31 PM

I used to live in Delaware. Its a great place that seems to be forgotten by most people.

# Posted By Jared | 5/30/13 6:31 PM
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