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Red Knot

Calidris canutus

The Red Knot is a worldwide traveler. The ‘rufa’ subspecies of this bird travels from the extreme southern end of the South American continent to the northeastern reaches of arctic North America.One of their migration routes passes up the western Atlantic on the way to nest sites in Canada near the Hudson bay. After journeying from the southern tip of South America, Red Knots arrive on the shore of Delaware Bay in May and gorge themselves on horseshoe crab eggs to prepare for the long flight to their Arctic breeding grounds.

In the mid-1990’s people discovered that horseshoe crab eggs make good bait and collected all the crab eggs they could. When the birds arrived, and the food supply they depended on was gone, it was a disaster. Not having the fuel to continue on to the breeding grounds, their population crashed by about 50% in the following decade. Once the damage caused by harvesting the crab eggs was discovered and understood, both the crab and shorebird populations had fallen dramatically. Since then both the crab and bird populations have stabilized, but the numbers remain low.

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