The Red Knot is a shore bird that is in decline because of the decline of horseshoe crabs. An attempt to increase the horseshoe crab population off the coast of Maryland, Delaware, and New Jersey may help to restore the numbers of these increasingly rare birds.
The red knot (Calidris canutus) is a medium-sized shorebird that has one of the longest migratory paths of any animal, with a North American population that travels from the high Arctic breeding ground down to Tierra del Fuego in South America during the winter. The red knot forms very large flocks when undertaking this 9,000 mile journey.
The largest concentration of red knots typically occur in the Delaware Bay during May. Historical accounts describe flocks in the millions.
In recent times, however, red knot numbers have displayed a steep decline and scientists believe that these reductions correspond to the decline in Horseshoe Crab populations in the Mid-Atlantic.
Red knots are very dependent on horseshoe crab eggs for a food source when migrating through our region. Recent reductions in horseshoe crab harvests and beach conservation practices have significantly increased horseshoe crab populations, and so it is hoped that the red knot displays a corresponding increase in their numbers.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is now considering protecting red knots under the Endangered Species Act. The red knot has European and Eurasian flocks that are much more vigorous than the North American population.
Article by FCFCDB
Nature Note for 1/29/2017