Tag: Red Knot

FWS: ten years left for American red knot

Last month the USFWS released in advance its massive obituary for one of the most-studied birds in the world: Status of the Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa) in the Western Hemisphere

Warning! This is a 287-page pdf. That is not as offputting as it might seem, since much is supporting material, 18 pages of citations for instance, and 25 pages of habitat maps. It is also lavishly illustrated.

For the impatient reader, the actual status of the bird is baldly stated in the first paragraph of the Executive Summary:

The population of the rufa subspecies of the red knot Calidris canutus, which breeds in the central Canadian arctic and mainly winters in Tierra del Fuego, has declined dramatically over the past twenty years. Previously estimated at 100,000-150,000 . . . .

. . . . Counts show that the main Tierra del Fuego wintering population dropped from 67,546 in 1985 to 51,255 in 2000, 29,271 in 2002, 31,568 in 2004, but only 17,653 in 2005 and 17,211 in 2006.

In other words, with allowances for imperfections of methodology, in 2000 the bird’s numbers had declined to one third of historically normal levels, and by 2006 to something like one ninth of those levels. 89% wiped out. That is why most conservation groups predict it really has five years left or less. What is remarkable is that the FWs has finally recognized the severity of the situation. Not that they plan to do anything about it, mind you.