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Red Knot


Red knotThe red knot, a member of the family Scolopacidae, is a short legged, robin-sized shorebird. Scolopacids include familiar coastal birds such as sandpipers, the smallest of which also belong to the genus Calidris. During the breeding season, red knots exhibit black, brown and chestnut colored plumage above and a pinkish-cinnamon breast and face. In winter, the plumage changes to pale gray above and white below. Its legs are a greenish color, and the bill is slightly tapered and black. Red knots are not sexually dimorphic; both males and females look the same.

Habitat and Biology

Red knots winter in the coastal United States from Cape Cod to Mexico and South America and spend the summer on islands in the High Arctic. They over-winter all along the South Carolina coast, primarily on sandy beaches and mud flats.

Red knots raise only one brood per year. Nests are constructed near water on shallow depressions lined with leaves and lichens. Both adults incubate 3-4 olive-buff eggs for about 3 weeks. Young red knots fledge 18-20 days after hatching. This species feeds on mollusks, marine worms, and horseshoe crab eggs. During migration, knots gather in huge flocks, stopping along coastal areas to recharge their energy reserves for their flight to wintering grounds in Central and South America. Near Delaware Bay, their migration stopover coincides with the horseshoe crab's annual spawning. The abundance of horseshoe crab eggs provides ample protein for the migrating knots. In recent times, however, habitat alteration and human activities have threatened populations of horseshoe crabs thus indirectly putting migrating birds such as the red knot, at risk.


Bull, J. L. and J. Farrand, Jr. 1995. National Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds. Eastern Region. The Audubon Society field guide series. Alfred A. Knopf Inc., New York, NY.

Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birder's handbook: A field guide to the natural history of North American birds, including all species that regularly breed north of Mexico. Simon & Schuster, New York, NY.

National Geographic Society. 1987. Field guide to the birds of North America. Second edition. National Geographic Society, Washington, DC.

Sprunt, A., Jr. and E. B. Chamberlain. 1970. South Carolina bird life. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia, SC.

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