/ / “Red Knot,” James Fiorentino

“Red Knot,” James Fiorentino

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Red Knot Original Available for Sale

Red Knots begin arriving in New Jersey in early May. A medium-sized shorebird breeding in the tundra, Red Knots have one of the longest migratory patterns of any bird. In a single year it travels 9,000 miles, spanning the globe from the Artic to the tip of South America. Eating seasonally what it finds along the way, in New Jersey Red Knots time their migration to feed on horseshoe crab eggs. Locally, the Delaware Bay hosts the largest spawning population of horseshoe crabs, so one can witness concentrations of knots where the crabs are densely spawning. Along their migratory path these shorebirds can be spied along the Delaware Bay, the Atlantic side of Cape May, and down along the coastal beaches as late as August and September.

When Red Knots arrive in New Jersey they have very little fat on their bodies, and the eggs of the horseshoe crab provide an important food source that fuels their migration south. Red Knots will double their weight on the Delaware Bay during this season, with the rich food source providing the fat reserves necessary to reach their breeding grounds and lay eggs. Underweight and underfed birds can’t complete the migratory circuit and reproduce, and the Red Knot population has been in decline locally since the 1980s. Counts as high as 90,000 in the 1980s have fallen significantly; to 13,000 in 2007. That year, a moratorium was placed on harvesting horseshoe crabs to help bolster the red knots’ numbers. From May to June, the beaches along the Delaware Bay are closed to visitors to protect this vital habitat for these migratory shorebirds.

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