Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Horseshoe Crabs and Red Knots Show Improvement This Year

red knot banding and weighing

Since the mid-1990s, researchers from around the world, led by the NJ Department of Environmental Protection, have converged on the Delaware Bay region to monitor and protect migrating shorebirds: red knots, ruddy turnstones, sanderlings, semipalmated sandpipers, dunlins and short-billed dowitchers.

The red knot gets special attention because it is a species whose numbers in particular have plummeted in correlation with declines in horseshoe crabs and their eggs.

“Delaware Bay is one of the most important bird stopovers in the world, and a critical stopover for these six species,” said Amanda Dey, principal zoologist with the DEP’s Endangered and Nongame Species Program. “The red knot is the poster child for all of these shorebirds ... but this is really a bay-wide problem.”

Some good news this year - 35 percent of red knots left the bay at the weight deemed sufficient to reach the Arctic and successfully breed – 180 grams, or a little more than six ounces. This is a vast improvement over the 15 percent that reached this weight in 2008, but is still far short of the 60 percent researchers believe is the minimum necessary to begin rebuilding the species. Researchers are also seeing more horseshoe crab eggs on the beaches.

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