Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Red Knots Return North

Red Knots / Photo by Gregory Breese (USFWS)
Once again, scientists are documenting the status of Red Knots as they migrate through the Delaware Bay region. Here is one interesting tidbit that echoes comments I heard from scientists last spring:
The great unknown is the plight of juvenile red knots between the time they leave the Canadian Arctic and when they return to Delaware Bay two years later, Kalasz said.

Last summer’s breeding season produced high numbers of juvenile birds, Kalasz said.

The concern is whether something happens to these birds – food supplies, hunting, habitat loss – in South America before they reach maturity and make their first breeding trip north through Delaware Bay, he said.

Scientists aren’t detecting any increases in the red knot population even though the numbers of juveniles in Canada – at least last year – was good.
Stopping the horseshoe crab harvests in Delaware Bay was clearly the most important means of protecting Red Knots and rebuilding their population. Having a ready supply of horseshoe crab eggs in the Delaware Bay area during spring migration is vital to the species's breeding success. However, there are other pieces of the puzzle, on their breeding grounds, on their wintering grounds, and on their fall migration routes. Finding what the remaining problems are and their solutions will be important for the Red Knot's long-term survival.