Six birds to look for in May and June
Published: April 20, 2012
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Photo by West Coast Birder
During May and June, Red Knots occur on beaches along the Atlantic, Pacific, and Gulf coasts and in small numbers around the Great Lakes. Inland sightings are rare, but according to eBird data, knots are possible on almost any coastal mudflat or shoreline. The gap between their spring and fall migration is quite short. Late northbound birds are seen in early June, and early southbound birds are already evident by early or mid-July. Look for them at coastal estuaries and sandy beaches, often flocking with Black-bellied Plovers, Ruddy Turnstones, and Sanderlings.See eBird's current distribution map for Red Knot.Photo by West Coast Birder
Geolocators reveal Red Knot flights
In February, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection changed the status of the Red Knot from Threatened to Endangered, signaling further concern for the declining shorebird, especially the rufa subspecies. Meanwhile, scientists are studying the birds’ migrations in more detail than ever before with an eye toward preserving important stopover and wintering sites.
Larry Niles of the Conserve Wildlife Foundation, Joanna Burger of Rutgers University, and colleagues are using lightweight geolocators affixed to the birds’ legs to track their migrations.
Three of 47 knots given geolocators in spring 2009 in Delaware Bay were recaptured a year later. All three had flown to the Arctic and wintered in South America, traveling as much as 16,500 miles in a year. They spent the winter on the northern and southern coasts of Brazil, but not in areas considered to be the main wintering territories for the species. “This result highlights the need for more extensive surveys before we can claim to have a thorough knowledge of the winter distribution of rufa,” the researchers wrote in the Wader Study Group Bulletin.
The team put geolocators on more knots in Massachusetts in fall 2009 and recaptured eight birds a year later. They reported in The Condor that no single movement pattern emerged. Instead, migration routes varied considerably, and each bird followed a distinct path. Wintering sites included the Atlantic coast, Cuba, Haiti, and the northern coast of South America.
eBird is the real-time online checklist operated by the Cornell Lab
of Ornithology and Audubon. Marshall Iliff, Brian Sullivan, and Chris
Wood are eBird project leaders. Submit your bird sightings at ebird.org.