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A photo of a Red Knot (Calidris canutus)
Red Knot

Red Knot

Calidris canutus

The Red Knot, known scientifically as Calidris canutus, is a medium-sized shorebird with a robust build, second in size within its genus only to the Great Knot. It is recognized by its cinnamon-colored breeding plumage and pale grey non-breeding attire. This avian marvel breeds in the tundra and Arctic Cordillera in the far north of Canada, Europe, and Russia, and is known for its extraordinary migratory journeys.

Identification Tips

In flight, the Red Knot is identifiable by its large size, white wing bar, and grey rump and tail. Its short, dark legs and medium thin dark bill are noticeable when the bird is foraging. The nonbreeding adult sports a uniform pale grey plumage, while during the breeding season, it boasts a mottled grey back with a cinnamon face, throat, and breast, fading to a lighter rear belly. The females are similar but slightly paler with a less distinct eye-line.

Habitat

The Red Knot frequents a variety of coastal habitats outside the breeding season, including mudflats, marshes, and beaches. During the breeding season, it nests on the ground in the high Arctic tundra, often near water.

Distribution

This species has a circumpolar distribution in the high Arctic for breeding and migrates to coasts around the world from the northern to the southern hemispheres. It undertakes one of the longest migrations of any bird, traveling over 9,000 miles annually.

Behaviour

Red Knots are known to form enormous flocks when not breeding. They exhibit territorial behavior during the breeding season and are seasonally monogamous. Males arrive at the breeding grounds before females and defend territories where they perform elaborate displays.

Song & Calls

The Red Knot's calls include a low monosyllabic "knutt" when in flocks and a disyllabic "knuup-knuup" during migration. The male's display song is a fluty "poor-me," and their display includes high circling with quivering wingbeats followed by a tumbling descent with wings held aloft.

Breeding

The Red Knot nests on the ground, with males preparing several nest scrapes. The female lays typically four eggs, which both parents incubate. After hatching, the chicks are precocial and leave the nest within a day, foraging with their parents. The female departs before the young fledge, leaving the male to care for them until they are ready to migrate.

Similar Species

The Great Knot is similar but larger and can be distinguished by its different breeding range and migratory patterns.

Diet and Feeding

Red Knots feed on arthropods, larvae, and various hard-shelled molluscs, depending on the season and location. They are tactile feeders, probing for prey in the mud, and can rapidly adjust the size of their digestive organs to accommodate different food types.

Conservation status

The Red Knot is currently listed as Near Threatened due to habitat loss, climate change, and reduced food availability at key stopover sites during migration. Conservation efforts are focused on protecting critical habitats and managing resources such as horseshoe crab populations, which provide essential food during migration.

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