APRIL 6, 2014 -
Red Knots, Calidris canutus, are "widespread and common
but quite localized" according to The Shorebird Guide by
O'Brien, Crossley and Karlson. So if one lives in/near one
of the widely scattered breeding grounds in the high Arctic,
they are a common sight. For the rest of us, we revel in
sighting even small groups of them as they migrate from South
America to the Arctic. HRA Board Member Dan Gribbin
was on hand to capture the photos above during the Volusia
County Shorebird Survey on February 14, 2014.
Long-distance spring migration
takes place between mid-February and mid-June with birds
wintering in South America gradually moving northward.
Their numbers peak in Brazil in later April-early May.
From there, many of the birds fly non-stop along the Atlantic
coast, stopping in staging areas like the shore of Delaware Bay.
Red Knots time their arrival in New Jersey to the egg-laying
season for Horseshoe Crabs. After gorging themselves on
crab eggs, the Knots make another non-stop flight to breeding
grounds in Canada. Interestingly, Red Knots which winter
along the coast in southern US and Central America likely fly
non-stop to a staging area long the Pacific coast where they
feed and build up reserves before flying directly to their
breeding grounds in Alaska. Some one-year old birds remain
on their winter groups throughout the summer while others
migrate only partway.
Fall migration begins in
mid-July and lasts through mid-November, with the adults leaving
first. Juveniles spend several additional weeks at the
breeding grounds and then head directly to the coasts in one
This is a chunky, short-billed,
long-winged shorebird with a relatively non-descriptive plumage
in winter. They measure about 10.5 inches in length and
weigh 4.7 ounces, with females slightly larger than males.
However, in spring the adults are unmistakable, sporting robin
Population numbers of Red Knots
are declining for a variety of reasons. Scientists use
band sightings and reports to help track these long-distance
travelers. Specifics from the leg band of the bird on the
right were given to the appropriate officials following the
Facts above were gathered from
The Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley, Lives
of North American Birds by Kenn Kaufman and The Shorebird
Guide by O'Brien, Crossley & Karlson.