Protecting the red knot under the Endangered Species Act

Stephanie Koch holds a red knot on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. Credit: Meagan Racey/USFWS

The rufa red knot undertakes a marathon migration, flying thousands of miles from breeding areas in the Canadian Arctic, along coastal and inland migration corridors, to wintering areas in the Gulf of Mexico and the southeastern U.S., the Caribbean, and South America.

Red knot infographic

Many of these robin-sized birds make a staggering migration of 9,300 miles each way, wintering on Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America. The oldest known rufa red knot, called B95 for the number on his leg flag, has flown enough miles in his lifetime to journey to the moon and at least halfway back.

While B95 has lived long—at least 20 years—and traveled many miles, many rufa red knots have not fared as well. In the 1800s, unregulated hunting in North America devastated red knot populations, which eventually rebounded. But since the 1980s, knot numbers have dropped by roughly 75 percent in some areas, with the steepest declines resulting from overharvest of the horseshoe crab, whose eggs are one of the knot’s key food sources during migration. Today knots face significant threats from coastal development, dredging, sea walls, oil spills, and—more recently—climate change.

The knot’s future is closely linked to further impacts from climate change. Many of the threats facing the knot are driven by our changing climate—including disappearing habitat and food resources. These birds spend most of their time along the coasts or at the extreme latitudes of the Western Hemisphere, the areas undergoing the most rapid climate change.

Today, we propose to protect the knot as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 40 U.S. coastal and inland states and 24 foreign countries and their administrative territories or regions. Our proposal follows a thorough scientific review of the best available data on the rufa red knot. The added protection of the Endangered Species Act would strengthen numerous conservation efforts that are already underway in the U.S. and many countries, and help ensure the future of the knot.

Want to help?

  • You can visit our red knot site to learn more, comment or provide information on the proposed rule.
  • Learn what role your “backyard” plays in the life cycle of the knot and contact conservation groups for information on how you can help ensure that it continues providing the knot with what it needs.
  • Be a citizen scientist! Report knot and other shorebird sightings at and

2 Comments on “Protecting the red knot under the Endangered Species Act

  1. Pingback: Sustainable Sunday’s: The Center for Biological Diversity | Sunset Daily

  2. Pingback: Hurricane Sandy restoration saves shorebirds, ‘living fossils’ they rely on | U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Northeast Region

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