"Uptick Seen in Red Knots on Jersey Shore"

"An annual spring count instilled hope among biologists that the threatened shorebird may be recovering from recent declines. Crab harvesting bans were partly credited for the rise."

"The number of rufa red knot shore birds migrating via Delaware Bay beaches to Arctic breeding sites this spring rose to the highest level in four years, according to an independent annual survey.

The count, by land and boat, tallied about 22,000 of the robin-sized birds, an encouraging sign for a shorebird that is listed as federally threatened. The survey’s figures were the highest since 2019, and a sharp increase from a record low of 6,880 in 2021, according to Larry Niles, an independent biologist. He has been monitoring the migration of the rufa red knot, an Atlantic coast subspecies, on the Delaware Bay for the last quarter century.

Dr. Niles attributed the healthier number to the relatively warm ocean waters that aided in the spawning of horseshoe crabs, whose eggs are a crucial food source for the birds. A week or two of gorging on the crab eggs each May allows the birds to regain weight after long-distance flights from as far away as Tierra del Fuego, Argentina, and to complete their migration, one of the longest in the avian world.

The density of crab eggs on the beaches bordering New Jersey and Delaware, rose to about 10,000 per square meter during this year’s migration in May, Dr. Niles said, from a recent low of some 5,000."

Jon Hurdle reports for the New York Times June 15, 2023.

Source: NYTimes, 06/16/2023