You Can Make A Difference: Help the Red Knot

Last year at this time, BirdFellow published a wonderful article by Elizabeth J. Rosenthal, which chronicles the plight and precipitous decline of the Atlantic population of Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa).  Her articles looks into the many factors, including over-harvest of horseshoe crabs, that have contributed to this decline. We encourage you to revisit (or visit for the first time) her piece entitled, "Help the Delmarva Ornithological Society Help the Red Knot" (published in this online journal on 28 April 2009).

In 2004 the Atlantic knot population was believed to number only about 13,000 birds, down from 90,000 in the 1980's. Recent conservation efforts, which have included a ban on horseshoe crab harvesting in neighboring New Jersey, seem to be making a difference as the 2009 census found 24,000 knots, the highest count since  2003. However, despite this modest recovery, scientists still consider the Atlantic population of Red Knots to be endangered.

Over the next week and a half birders all over Delaware will once again be working to see and hear as many bird species as possible in an effort to raise funds that will go towards the purchase of parcels of Delaware Bay shoreline that provide critical feeding stopovers for migrant Atlantic Red Knots. For the fourth consecutive year the Delmarva Ornithological Society (DOS) is sponsoring a bird-a-thon event. During the nine-day  Delaware Bird-A-Thon period, teams of birders may pick any day to go out and try to see as many bird species as they can during a 24-hour period. Similar to a walk-a-thon, birders collect pledges from friends, family, and co-workers for each species they tally.

Perhaps no bird population on Earth has crashed as dramatically as the Atlantic subspecies of Red Knot. This adult knot, photographed at Mispillion Harbor, Delaware on 27 May 2007, sports coded green leg flags and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service silver leg band (right leg). Numbered and colored flags  allow biologists and researchers to relocate and identify individual birds from among the thousands of other knots migrating north along the Atlantic Coast each Spring. (Photo taken by Chris Bennett)

To date, three Delaware Bird-A-Thon events have collectively raised $120,000 for conservation. Those funds have already gone towards the purchase of 17 acres of prime shoreline on Delaware Bay, which are now being managed by the Prime Hook National Wildlife Refuge. In 2010, the DOS has formed a new partnership with the Delaware Dept. of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), which will allow this year's bird-a-thon funds to be put towards the purchase of 52 additional acres of marsh at Mispillion Harbor. This marsh is vitally important to many species of migrant shorebirds and other wetland species.

We at BirdFellow echo the sentiments of prominent field guide author David Sibley who said, "What you can do to save the Red Knot: Support the Delaware Bird-A-Thon." Over the past year this journal has been visited by more than 15,000 birders from around the globe. If each of us were able to make a $10 contribution to this effort, we would raise more than the collective total raised by the first three Delaware Bird-A-Thons. To lend your support to this important effort, please visit


Dear BirdFellow Dave,

Thank you so much for your resounding support and efforts to spread the word about our Delaware Bird-A-Thon. Your efforts last year produced some substantial funding responses and it was a real treat to see contributions coming in from the West Coast. All of us associated with the previous three Bird-A-Thons are grateful for the successes it has produced and are most proud of the 69 acres purchased and preserved for migratory shorebirds and the great friends we have made along the way. I am doing my Delaware Bird-A-Thon Big Day tomorrow and will have the enjoyment of seeing the newly arriving Red Knot and birding upon the properties this event has helped secure for future generations.


Bill Stewart
Delaware Bird-A-Thon Founder/Coordinator


I can not find any red knot population numbers for New Jersey, Delaware or Maryland in Spring 2010. Does anyone know the red knot estimates for 2010? The last number I can find indicate 24,000 in New Jersey in 2009.
Also any ideas about when the red knots might reach Delaware this year. I know that fall moon is on May 17th.

Any information is appreciated.

Robert Klick
Buffalo, NY

- Thanks to you and Paula, Karl, this was one of my ftivroae engagement sessions of the year…and you made it a success. The setting was your choice and you could not not been more fun to be with on the day. Your love for each really shines through!

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