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Red Knot Facts




The Red Knot is a small, plump, reddish shorebird.


Every year, the Red Knot rufa subspecies migrates over 9,000 miles from Tierra del Fuego in Chile and Argentina to Arctic regions of Canada. During migration, Red Knots stop along the eastern coasts of South and North America.


At their final stop on the Delaware Bay coast, Red Knots eat horseshoe crab eggs. This meal needs to last them during their non-stop journey to the Arctic. Then, if food is scarce in the Arctic, their fat stores from the Delaware Bay stopover have to last even longer.


The population of Red Knots stopping on Delaware Bay shores has dropped from 95,000 birds in 1989 to only 12,375 in 2007.


In 1986, aerial surveys in Tierra del Fuego counted 53,232 Red Knots, compared to only 14,800 in 2008. The entire wintering population of Red Knot rufa has dropped 33% over 4 winters, from 27,728 in 2004/5 to 18,350 in 2007/8.


Scientific models predict that the Red Knot rufa may become extinct soon if steps are not taken to protect this subspecies.


The reason for the sudden decline in the Red Knot population is that very large numbers of horseshoe crabs were harvested from the Delaware Bay during the 1990's. Horseshoe crabs are used as bait by commercial fishermen.


Smaller horseshoe crab populations mean less horseshoe crab eggs for Red Knots to feed on.


Some ways we can help the Red Knot are by restricting the harvesting of Delaware Bay horseshoe crabs and by listing the Red Knot under the Endangered Species Act of 1973.


Horseshoe crab harvesting has been banned in New Jersey. There are restrictions on horseshoe crab harvesting in Delaware, Maryland, and Virginia, but they are not consistent, and are being successfully challenged by the commercial fishing industry. Horseshoe crab harvesting must be banned in these states as well.


Listing the Red Knot rufa subspecies under the Endangered Species Act will provide federal protection of the birds, their habitat and their food supply.



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