Conserving the Nature of America

The Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa)

Red knot (Calidris canutus rufa). Credit: USFWS
Red knot (Calidris canutus rufa).  Credit: USFWS

The red knot is truly a master of long-distance aviation. On wingspans of 20 inches, red knots fly more than 9,300 miles from south to north every spring and repeat the trip in reverse every autumn, making this bird one of the longest-distance migrants in the animal kingdom. Surveys of wintering knots along the coasts of southern Chile and Argentina and during spring migration in Delaware Bay on the U.S. coast indicate a serious population decline.

Red knots' unique and impressive life history depends for its success, and the species' survival, on certain conditions. One of the most important is the continued availability of billions of horseshoe crab eggs at major North Atlantic staging areas, notably the Delaware Bay and Cape May peninsula. The increase in taking of horseshoe crabs for bait in commercial fisheries that occurred in the 1990s may be a major factor in the decline in red knots. Another necessary condition for red knots' survival is the continued existence of middle- and high-arctic habitat for breeding. Red knots could be particularly affected by global climate change, which may be greatest at the latitudes where this species breeds and winters.

Biologists from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, state natural resource agencies, and non-profit organizations all share a concern for this race of red knot and are pooling efforts to identify what needs to be done to prevent further losses. Together with these partners, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is dedicated to working to conserve this extraordinary bird.

Red Knot in the News

For More Information

Red Knot along the East Coast

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Last updated: December 21, 2011