Save the Red Knot

Small and lightweight, the Red Knot is a migrating shorebird that travels the world over 18,000 miles per year. This species of sandpiper is under consideration by the U.S. Federal government for its protection status, currently “Least Concern”, to be changed to “Threatened”. The Red Knot is vulnerable to over exploitation of shellfish, and the disturbance of habitat by tourism and recreational activities on the beaches. These activities reduce its nesting grounds, non-breeding habitat and food supply.

Breeding grounds for the Red Knot are in the Canadian and Russian Arctic, and Greenland. They breed in solitary pairs and make their nests, an open shallow depression, on small areas of vegetation surrounded by mud and water or on stoney ground or open vegetated ground. Food at the breeding location is not plentiful and consists of small insects, spiders, small crustaceans, snails and worms. Until insects are readily available, Red Knots also feed on vegetation. Because of the scarcity of food, Red Knots must gorge themselves along the migration trail, stopping at the Delaware Bay to feast on spawning Horseshoe Crab’s eggs. Here, Red Knots will double their weight during this feeding frenzy of roughly 10-14 days, to head north. Between June and August, solitary pairs will make their nest, usually about ¾ mile apart from each other, and maintain their territories. The nests are sometimes lined with dried leaves, grasses and lichens. The female usually lays four eggs that are olive in color with brown spots. The chicks leave the nest quickly learning to fly and make their migratory trip south.

Save the Chicks logo

Non-breeding grounds can include the northern Gulf Coast of the U.S., the southern coast of California and northern coast of Mexico. They are found also wintering in Massachusettes. But uniquely, these migrators travel to Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America during our North American winter and then back to their northern breeding grounds for the short breeding period. During the non-breeding season, Red Knots will feast on intertidal invertebrates such as molluscs, crustaceans, insects, and sometimes fish and seeds.

The breeding Red Knot is a beautiful bird. It is usually a grey and white blending in with other shorebirds but turning a lovely russet color on its head and breast during breeding season.

Since the 1980s, the decline of the Horseshoe Crab in the Delaware Bay has contributed to the decline of the Red Knot. The Horseshoe Crab takes 9-11 years to mature, and finally at the end of May into early June each year, the female can lay as many as 80,000 eggs. The crabs can live about 16-17 years. Horseshoe crabs are often used as bait for fisherman, causing a decline in mature, egg-laying crabs. Red Knots need this source of food for their life cycle. Legislatures of Delaware, New Jersy and Maryland have done what they can to protect the Red Knot but not enough. Now the Federal government is getting involved and is asking for opinions. You can state yours by going to The docket number is FWS-R5-ES-2013-0097.

Why are these birds important? Birds in general are an important part of our global ecosystem. On various levels of the food chain, they are predators, consumers and the consumed. They provide host habitat for insects and help in the plant pollination process. Our feathered friends are also part of the global economy as birding promotes tourism and industry that produces bird watching supplies.

Please support Red Knots by stating that they should be protected with a “threatened” status. Although the government is currently shut down, the website is accepting opinions through the end of November 2013. Thanks for your support.

Save The Chicks.

It’s All For the Birds

Back in 2007, I moved to Siesta Key in Florida.  A birder at heart, I loved all of the species I was able to view year-round.  I especially liked seeing the migratory event twice a year.  I hooked up with a few other bird lovers and joined a Yahoo group that alerted its members to sightings around town.  I learned quickly to keep binoculars in my beach bag.  The beach bag traveled with me, so  I also kept a set in house.

Time passed and my Birding Life List grew.  I joined and the Wings Over Florida program.  I made it to the second level, “Florida Scrub Jay” (150-249 Florida species), before moving out of state.  I’m not far from the “Black Skimmer” level and each time I return to Florida for vacation I try to add to my list.

My passion for birding led me to instruct some 4-Hers in the club my children belonged to.  We took field trips with members of the local Audubon group to spot birds and teach the kids about these wonderful flying creatures and the importance of conservation.

I learned about shore birds and was alerted to the fact that they nested on the beaches and usually hatched at a time when crowds of people were expected: Memorial Day weekend.  The local Audubon group set out annually to find the nests, mostly scratches in the sand near the dunes, but sometimes not.  They roped the areas off to traffic and posted official signs warning people to stay out; birds are federally protected.  Ropes and signs don’t always work; in fact, they usually don’t. So those in charge began a “Chick Sitting” program.  I volunteered.

A roped off nesting area on Siesta Key 2008

A roped off nesting area on Siesta Key 2008

Chick Sitters basically educate the beach-goers about nesting birds, the ropes and the need to respect the area.  They work in shifts throughout the weekend, sometimes extending beyond the weekend (before and after) depending on expected hatch dates.

So, I am a Chick Sitter.  I volunteered during the nesting and hatching season of the Snowy Plover. During the busy beach times, when the birds are most vulnerable to lost eggs and lost chicks, I volunteered to sit nearby with a handful of pamphlets and when I saw people getting too close to the ropes, I’d talk to them about what was on the other side.  I found a few surly people but, for the most part, folks liked what we did and showed respect for the area while they enjoyed the beach nearby.  Sometimes, if the nests were easy to spot, I’d hand them my binoculars so they could see I was being truthful. Kids loved it. Parents loved that the kids were excited.

I’ve moved away but still, in my heart I Chick Sit, which is why I’ve created “Save The Chicks”.  While organizations, private and governmental, all over the country work on bird conservation, this site is determined to collect information from as many of these as possible and post them here for you, the reader, to enjoy.  You may even find a chick sitting opportunity in your area.

I’ve created a logo using my first initial “e” with plans to make a brand so fellow birders and chick sitters can spot each other.  I am writing a curriculum program for school-aged children and one for adults to educate people about shore bird nesting.  I am building an art market using the logo “e” bird with plans to give a percent of proceeds to groups around the country that need a little bit of extra funding for their programs.

Join me and support this cause.

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Thanks, and happy birding.