Lawrence Niles Ph.D Conserve Wildlife Foundation of NJ
Amanda Dey Ph.D NJ Division of Fish and Wildlife
Over the last 10 years the New World red knot has declined by nearly 70%, from an estimated population of over 100,000 individuals to the current low of under 30,000 . Although the primary cause of the decline is inadequate food supplies on the Delaware Bay, the magnitude of the decline has focused additional scrutiny on the condition of other stopovers and wintering areas important to these long-distance migrants. The red knot uses three main wintering areas. The largest population occurs in Tierra del Fuego (Chile and Argentina). It once accounted for about 70% of the total population but is now down to less than 20,000 birds. A second population occurs in the Maranhao region of Brazil. It has been estimated at 10,000 birds, but is now less than 2,000. The third population includes portions of a number of southeastern states from North Carolina to Texas with the greatest concentration on the southwest Gulf coast of Florida.
The red knot wintering population in southwest Florida once numbered 7000-10,000. This estimate, from surveys conducted in the mid 1990's, focused on Florida's southwest gulf coast from just north of the Florida Keys to Honeymoon Island north of Tampa Bay. In the same area in 2006, only 2,100 birds were reported and as little as 515 in 2008
It was this startling outcome that was the chief finding of a project funded by the New Jersey Corporate Wetlands Restoration Partnership. In 2005 we conducted the first work on red knots in this very important wintering area that ultimately resulted in a scientific publication ( see attached) and succeeded in accomplishing two very important outcomes. Most importantly this initial work on shorebirds in Florida has continued with funding from other sources and now in it's fifth year, the project has blossomed into two grad projects in local universities, an east coast project focusing or areas similar to Florida in other states as well as a yearly statewide survey of knots in Florida. Collectively this work is now shaping shorebird and coastal public lands management and public policy in Florida as well as many areas along the US East coast. The second effect has been to elevate the status of the red knots ( and by extension all shorebirds) to the attention of the many state and federal conservation agencies especially in areas where shorebirds winter. This attention will hopefully create real management that will diminish the impacts of disturbance and habitat loss that is currently plaguing all shorebirds wintering in the US.
Florida Red Knot Project