Red knot

By on April 23, 2014

red knots

Red knots at Mispillion Harbor, Del. (Gregory Breese, USFWS)

Another shorebird is a candidate for status as a threatened species, but some protections already in place could help safeguard it, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says.

The rufa red knot, a bird about the size of a robin, stops along the East Coast during its 9,000-mile migrations between the Canadian Arctic and the tip of South America.

Fish and Wildlife says the red knot’s population has declined in some areas by 75 percent since the 1980s.

Last September, the service proposed listing the bird as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The 60-day comment period was extended to May 19 because of the high level of interest in the proposal. More than 560 individual comments and 19,000 form letters were received, the agency said.

Last week, U.S. Rep. Walter B. Jones, R-N.C. urged the Fish and Wildlife Service to schedule a public hearing in Dare County in addition to one set for May 6 in Morehead City.

“The residents of Dare County should have the opportunity to share their thoughts on the federal government’s proposal to list the Rufa Red Knot as a ‘threatened’ species,” Jones said in a statement from his office.

“This is a proposal that could significantly impact the Eastern North Carolina economy, and it is critical to first consider the input of all individuals who may be affected.”

On the East Coast, the birds are more commonly found in the Delaware Bay region and the Eastern Shore of Virginia, but smaller numbers have been known to stop along the Outer Banks.

A 2012 survey found an estimated 44,680 knots around the Delaware Bay region. Fish and Wildlife said a 2011 study put the population in the southeast at 4,000.

The birds can fly overland to areas in the Gulf of Mexico, and the designation would apply to 40 states.

Climate change, especially as it has affected the Arctic region, has disrupted the red knot’s biological clock for migration, according to Fish and Widlife. Development and declines in food supplies are also a factor.

If the bird is listed as threatened, state and local governments would need to take the species into consideration when planning beach nourishment or managing other activities along the shoreline, such as driving on the beach.

“Since many parts of the knot’s coastal range overlap with areas used by other listed species, such as piping plovers and sea turtles, some of the management actions needed to protect the knot and its habitat may already be in place,” Fish and Wildlife writes in a discussion of the proposal on its website.

A decision on the proposal is expected by September.




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