Friday, December 12, 2014

Red Knot Listed as Federally Threatened

Big news came out of the US Fish and Wildlife Service on Tuesday, December 9 when they announced that the rufa subspecies of the Red Knot (Calidris canutus) would be listed as federally threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The US Fish and Wildlife Service sites extensive coastal development along the East Coast of the United States and climate change as two important factors contributing to the drastic, rapid decline of this incredible species.

Red Knot (Calidris canutus) - Tompkins Co., NY (photo © Jay McGowan)

The rufa Red Knot is one of the most incredible long-distance migrants on the planet, with some individuals regularly migrating 18,000 miles in a single year from their breeding grounds in the high Canadian Arctic to their wintering grounds in Tierra del Fuego in southern Argentina ("Moonbird" is part of this subspecies) . In the spring, huge flocks of Red Knots migrate north, stopping at traditional stopover sites along the East Coast of North America to fuel up not only for the rest of their journey to the arctic, but also to gain important resources for the breeding season (US Fish and Wildlife Service 2013). One of the most famous stopover sites for the Red Knot is coastal Delaware Bay in Delaware and New Jersey, where Red Knots gorge themselves on horseshoe crab eggs. Regular surveys at sites along Delaware Bay, as well as wintering sites in Chile and Argentina documented drastic declines in the early 2000s, with populations declining 75%. Many of these declines in the early 2000s were attributed to excessive horseshoe crab harvesting, reducing their food source at key stopover sites. While populations have stabilized recently, future coastal development and habitat changes due to future change may be detrimental to the Red Knot (US Fish and Wildlife Service 2014).

To read more about the listing of the Red Knot and other fun facts about Red Knots, visit the US Fish and Wildlife Service's website here.

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