University of Delaware
delware environmental institute

News Journal: Red knots seem to thrive during Delaware Bay stopover

New evidence suggests Delaware Bay may be one of many coastal stopping points for the red knot, a robin-sized shorebird that has made the lower estuary a seasonal tourist destination. But researchers still maintain that Delaware Bay is the critical link in the spring migration and horseshoe crab eggs – the preferred diet along the Delaware Bay – are vital to the health of the population.

"Delaware Bay is the epicenter of red knots now but a lot of us think they used to spread out up and down the coast," said Barry Truitt, retired chief conservation scientist at the Virginia Coast Reserve of the Nature Conservancy. Truitt studied the birds as they migrated through the barrier islands along the eastern shore of Virginia for more than a decade.

The birds, listed in January as a threatened species, seemed to thrive on their Delaware Bay stopover this spring with 74-percent weighing in at 180 grams or more prior to their migration to Arctic breeding grounds, said Gregory Breese, Supervisory Fish and Wildlife Biologist with the Delaware Bay Estuary Project. The 180 gram weight is the bench mark for peak breeding success.