Species Profile

Red Knot rufa subspecies Tierra del Fuego / Patagonia wintering population

Scientific Name: Calidris canutus rufa
Other/Previous Names: Red Knot rufa subspecies
Taxonomy Group: Birds
COSEWIC Range: Northwest Territories, Nunavut, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2020
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
COSEWIC Status Criteria: A2bc+4bc
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This medium-sized shorebird breeds in the central Canadian Arctic and overwinters in Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America, with migratory round-trips of over 30,000 km each year. Annual winter surveys indicate that the population of about 7,500 mature individuals has declined by 73% over the past three generations. Habitat quality is declining in areas used for breeding, wintering, and migration. Population and habitat declines are anticipated to continue. The population congregates at a few key sites on migration on the east coasts of North and South America, and on the wintering grounds, making it highly vulnerable to threats. Threats include human harvesting of Horseshoe Crab (whose eggs are an essential food source for northbound migrants) in Delaware Bay, disturbance and predation from recovering falcon populations, oil development, and disturbance from recreational activities. Risks from exposure to storms and severe weather during very long trans-oceanic migratory flights may increase with climate change.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: The rufa subspecies was considered a single unit (consisting solely of southern wintering birds from Tierra del Fuego/Patagonia) and designated Endangered in April 2007. Based on the Designatable Unit report on Red Knot (COSEWIC 2019), a new population structure was proposed and accepted by COSEWIC; two groups previously assessed under the 'roselaari type' were transferred to the rufa subspecies (Northeastern South America wintering population, Southeastern USA / Gulf of Mexico / Caribbean wintering population). The Tierra del Fuego/Patagonia wintering population of the rufa subspecies was designated Endangered in November 2020.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Endangered
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2012-06-20

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

Go to advanced search

Quick Links: | Taxonomy | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Taxonomy

There are currently six Red Knot Calidris canutus subspecies, which form distinct populations, three occur in Canada: C. c. rufa, C. c. roselaari and C. c. islandica.

Top

Description

The Red Knot is a shorebird measuring 25 cm in length. As do all sandpipers, the Red Knot has a long straight bill, small head, long legs, and long tapered wings, giving an elongated and streamlined profile to the body. During the breeding season, the Red Knot’s plumage changes colour: the face, neck, chest, and much of the underparts turn brownish red. There is a white stripe on the wings, and the feathers on the upper parts are dark brown or black interspersed with red and grey, making the back appear spangled. Males tend to be more brightly coloured than females, with more extensive red on the underparts. The Red Knot’s winter plumage is plain. The underparts are white and the back is light grey. The upper breast and the flanks have greyish or brownish streaks, and the head has dull greyish patterning with a whitish line above the eye. Juveniles have similar plumage, but they can be distinguished by their scaly appearance. Juveniles may also have a soft pale buff colour suffusing the breast.   The main feature that differentiates individuals of the rufa subspecies from other Red Knots is the breeding plumage, which is a lighter shade of red.

Top

Distribution and Population

Red Knots of the subspecies rufa breed in the central Canadian Arctic and winter in Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America. Consequently, they migrate thousands of kilometres. In July and August, during the southward migration, large numbers of Red Knots pass over the southwest coast of Hudson Bay (Manitoba and Ontario) and the western and southern coasts of James Bay (Ontario). The southeast tip of Akimiski Island in James Bay also appears to be an important area for this species. Red Knots have also been observed, albeit in small numbers, along the southern coast of James Bay in Quebec. Currently, the most important areas for migrating Red Knots of the rufa subspecies in eastern Canada are along the north shore of the St. Lawrence in Quebec. During the northward migration, large flocks of Red Knots, likely coming from Delaware Bay, have been observed in the southern part of James Bay. From time to time, there are sightings of large concentrations around Lake Ontario.   In Canada, Red Knots of the rufa subspecies breed on Coats and Mansel islands in northern Hudson Bay, on Southampton Island off the east coast of Hudson Bay, on islands in Foxe Basin, including Prince Charles Island and Rowley Island, as well as on the west coast of Baffin Island, most likely in the Boothia Peninsula area, on King William Island, and on southern Victoria Island.   According to counts of this subspecies in its wintering grounds, the population was between 13 500 and 15 000 adults in 2007. These data suggest that the population has dropped by 70% between the early 1980s and the late 2000’s. Population numbers in the main wintering grounds (Tierra del Fuego) remained relatively stable until 2000, after which there was a significant drop. Very few rufa individuals still use the other wintering sites along the coast of Patagonia, where large numbers had been observed in the 1980s. Similar declines have been reported all along the rufa’s migration path, which confirms that we are witnessing an actual population decline rather than a redistribution to other areas.

Top

Habitat

Red Knots use different habitats during the breeding, wintering, and migration seasons. In the Arctic, they nest in extremely barren habitats, such as windswept ridges, slopes, or plateaus. Nesting sites are usually located in dry, south-facing locations, near wetlands or lakes, where the young are led after hatching. Red Knots generally feed in damp or barren areas that can be as far as 10 km from the nest. Migratory stopovers and wintering grounds are vast coastal zones swept by tides twice a day, usually sandflats but sometimes mudflats. In these areas, the birds feed on molluscs, crustaceans, and other invertebrates. The species also frequents peat-rich banks, salt marshes, brackish lagoons, mangrove areas, and mussel beds. In South America, they frequent restingas, which are rocky, tide-swept platforms, rich in invertebrates. This species’ various habitats must provide suitable rest areas, sheltered from predators.   It is unlikely that the extent of this species’ Arctic breeding habitat has undergone any significant change. However, habitat changes brought about by climate change are likely to affect knots, probably in a negative fashion.

Top

Biology

Red Knots arrive in the Canadian Arctic to breed in early June. These migratory birds generally begin to breed at the age of two. Couples usually produce a single clutch per year in the latter half of June. Nests are simple scrapes in the ground, usually in small patches of vegetation, which may be lined with lichen and other plant material. The female lays four eggs (sometimes three). Incubation lasts 22 days and is shared by males and females. The female leaves shortly after hatching, around mid-July, leaving the male to care for the brood until the young birds take flight, or fledge, at the age of approximately 18 days. After the fledging, the adult males depart, followed by the juveniles one to three weeks later.    Red Knots feed on molluscs, crustaceans, and other invertebrates. During the spring migration, these birds forage for crab eggs on the sandy beaches of Delaware Bay, used by nesting Horseshoe Crabs.   The rufa subspecies has one of the longest migration routes of all Red Knot subspecies. The southward migration begins in the latter half of July, and the birds arrive in Tierra del Fuego in October.   Everywhere they occur, Red Knots appear to be extremely faithful to their sites. During nonbreeding seasons, large groups of these shorebirds gather on migratory stopovers and winter ranges, where they feed in tide-swept coastal zones and rest on neighbouring beaches, in marshes, or on fields characterized by open, undisturbed habitats.

Top

Threats

The main threat to the Red Knot of the rufa subspecies is the overfishing of Horseshoe Crabs in Delaware Bay, which has decimated the supply of this invertebrate’s eggs. During the spring migration, these eggs are the birds’ most important food source at their final stopover before returning to Canada. The impact is greater on this Red Knot subspecies because its migratory route is significantly longer than that of the other subspecies.   Other threats against this species, particularly the rufa and islandica subspecies, include the decreased availability of wetland habitats during the migration in eastern North America.   Other potential threats include human disturbance, the increased frequency and force of hurricanes during migration, and pollution caused by oil and chemical use in North and South America.   In addition, the effects of climate change (such as rising sea levels and the changing conditions of Arctic breeding grounds) and the increased predation (resulting from the rebounding of predator populations including falcons) could pose a long-term threat to Red Knot populations. Global warming, which is expected to cause the Arctic zone to shift northward, will have a particularly significant impact on individuals of the rufa subspecies that nest in the southern Arctic.

Top

Protection

Federal Protection

The Red Knot rufa subspecies, Tierra del Fuego / Patagonia wintering population, is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

Top

Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy and Management Plan for the Red Knot (Calidris canutus) in Canada
Status Final posting on SAR registry

Top

Recovery Team

Contact Person for Recovery Planning

  • Québec: Unité de planification de la conservation - Service canadien de la faune - Chair/Contact -
     Send Email

Top

Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

69 record(s) found.

Reports on the Progress of Recovery Document Implementation

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Red Knot (Calidris canutus) in Canada (2007-08-28)

    The Red Knot (Calidris canutus) is a medium-sized shorebird with a typical “sandpiper” profile: long bill and smallish head, long tapered wings giving the body an elongated streamlined profile, and longish legs. In breeding plumage, knots are highly distinctive, with face, neck, breast and much of the underparts coloured a rufous chestnut red. Feathers on the upperparts are dark brown or black with rufous and grey, giving the back a spangled appearance. In winter plumage, knots are much plainer, with white underparts and pale grey back. Six subspecies are currently recognized worldwide, all of which form distinct biogeographical populations differing in distribution and scheduling of the annual cycle. Subspecies occurring in Canada include C. c. rufa, C. c. roselaari, and C. c. islandica.
  • COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Red Knot Calidris canutus, islandica subspecies (Calidris canutus islandica), roselaari subspecies (Calidris canutus roselaari) and rufa subspecies (Calidris canutus rufa) in Canada (2021-10-12)

    Red Knot (Calidris canutus) is a medium-sized shorebird with a typical “sandpiper” profile: medium-long bill and smallish head, longish legs, and long tapered wings giving the body an elongated streamlined profile. In breeding plumage, the face, neck, breast and much of the underparts are rufous red. The upperparts are dark brown or black spangled with rufous and grey. In winter plumage, knots (used throughout to refer to Red Knots in general) have white underparts and pale grey back. Note: This COSEWIC assessment was received by the Minister on October 12, 2021.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Red Knot rufa subspecies (2007-12-04)

    This subspecies is a medium-sized shorebird that breeds only in Arctic Canada and migrates thousands of kilometres between its Arctic breeding grounds and wintering areas at the tip of South America. The subspecies has shown a 70% decline in abundance over the past three generations (15 years). It is threatened by a depletion of horseshoe crab eggs, a critical food source used during northern migration. There is no potential for rescue from other populations.
  • Response Statement - Red Knot rufa subspecies, Tierra del Fuego / Patagonia wintering population (2022-01-10)

    This medium-sized shorebird breeds in the central Canadian Arctic and overwinters in Tierra del Fuego at the southern tip of South America, with migratory round-trips of over 30,000 km each year. Annual winter surveys indicate that the population of about 7,500 mature individuals has declined by 73% over the past three generations. Habitat quality is declining in areas used for breeding, wintering, and migration. Population and habitat declines are anticipated to continue. The population congregates at a few key sites on migration on the east coasts of North and South America, and on the wintering grounds, making it highly vulnerable to threats. Threats include human harvesting of Horseshoe Crab (whose eggs are an essential food source for northbound migrants) in Delaware Bay, disturbance and predation from recovering falcon populations, oil development, and disturbance from recreational activities. Risks from exposure to storms and severe weather during very long trans-oceanic migratory flights may increase with climate change.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy and Management Plan for the Red Knot (Calidris canutus) in Canada (2017-11-24)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency is the competent minister under SARA for the Red Knot and has prepared this document, as per sections 37 and 65 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador as well as the territories of Yukon, Nunavut, and Northwest Territories and others as per sections 39(1) and 66(1) of SARA.

Action Plans

  • Multi-species Action Plan for Gros Morne National Park (2016-03-29)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Gros Morne National Park of Canada is a SARA action plan (SARA s.47) for Piping Plover (melodus subspecies), American Marten (Newfoundland population), and Red Crossbill (percna subspecies). The plan also outlines measures to monitor and manage 11 other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in the Park. This plan applies only to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of Gros Morne National Park.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada and associated National Historic Sites of Canada (2016-11-22)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada and associated National Historic Sites of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of the four sites: Kouchibouguac National Park of Canada (KNP) and other land managed by Parks Canada in the Northern New-Brunswick Field Unit offering adequate habitat for the species targeted in this action plan (Fort Beauséjour – Fort Cumberland National Historic Site of Canada (NHS), Beaubassin – Fort Lawrence NHS, Grand-Pré NHS). The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species at Risk Act (SARA) (s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur in KNP and associated NHS.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada (2017-08-24)

    Backed by the Insular Mountain Range of Vancouver Island and facing the open Pacific Ocean, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve of Canada (Pacific Rim NPR) protects and presents the rich natural and cultural heritage of Canada's west coast. Pacific Rim NPR consists of three distinct units, the Long Beach Unit, Broken Group Islands Unit, and West Coast Trail Unit, each offering a range of unique visitor experiences. With significant areas (51,216 ha in total) of old growth, temperate rainforest, coastal dune systems, wetlands and foreshore, and marine habitats, the park demonstrates the interconnectedness between land, sea, and people. These natural wonders are interwoven with the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations culture (past and present), and that of European explorers and settlers.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (2016-07-05)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Point Pelee National Park of Canada and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the boundaries of the two sites: Point Pelee National Park of Canada (PPNP) and the Niagara National Historic Sites of Canada (NNHS). The NNHS is being used as a term to collectively refer to two locations in the Niagara region that consist of three National Historic Sites: Fort George National Historic Site, Battlefield of Fort George National Historic Site, and Butler’s Barracks National Historic Sites of Canada. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species At Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at PPNP and at NNHS.
  • Multi-species Action Plan for Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada (2016-11-22)

    The Multi-species Action Plan for Prince Edward Island National Park of Canada applies to lands and waters occurring within the gazette boundaries of Prince Edward Island National Park (PEINP), as well as, Crown lands located adjacent to the park that are owned and administered by Parks Canada, including Greenwich.. The plan meets the requirements for action plans set out in the Species At Risk Act (SARA s.47) for species requiring an action plan, and that regularly occur in these sites. Measures described in this plan will also provide benefits for other species of conservation concern that regularly occur at PEINP and on associated federal lands.

Management Plans

  • Recovery Strategy and Management Plan for the Red Knot (Calidris canutus) in Canada (2017-11-24)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency is the competent minister under SARA for the Red Knot and has prepared this document, as per sections 37 and 65 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland and Labrador as well as the territories of Yukon, Nunavut, and Northwest Territories and others as per sections 39(1) and 66(1) of SARA.

Critical Habitat Statements

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (volume 145, number 23, 2011) (2011-11-09)

    His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, hereby acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of assessments conducted under subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 146, number 14, 2012) (2012-07-04)

    The purpose of the Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act is to add 18 species to Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (the List), and to reclassify 7 listed species, pursuant to subsection 27(1) of SARA. This amendment is made on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and on consultations with governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the Canadian public.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2007 (2007-08-30)

    2007 Annual Report to the The Minister of the Environment and the Canadian Endangered Species Conservation Council (CESCC) from the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada.
  • COSEWIC Annual Report 2020 to 2021 (2021-10-12)

    Over the past year COSEWIC assessed a total of 66 wildlife species, of which 4 were assigned a status of Not at Risk. Of these 66, COSEWIC re-examined the status of 41 wildlife species; of these, 80% were reassessed at the same or lower level of risk. To date and with the submission of this report, COSEWIC’s assessments now include 826 wildlife species in various risk categories including 369 Endangered, 196 Threatened, 239 Special Concern, and 22 Extirpated (i.e. no longer found in the wild in Canada). In addition, 19 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct, 62 wildlife species have been designated as Data Deficient, and 202 have been assessed as Not at Risk.

Permits and Related Agreements

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act - Terrestrial Species (2008-03-10)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by March 25, 2008 for species undergoing normal consultations and by March 27, 2009 for species undergoing extended consultations.
  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species January 2022 (2022-01-10)

    The Government of Canada is committed to preventing the disappearance of wildlife species at risk from our lands. As part of its strategy for realizing that commitment, on June 5, 2003, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA). Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species provided for under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Extirpated, Endangered and Threatened species on Schedule 1 benefit from the protection afforded by the prohibitions and from recovery planning requirements under SARA. Special Concern species benefit from its management planning requirements. Schedule 1 has grown from the original 233 to 640 wildlife species at risk. Please submit your comments by May 10, 2022, for terrestrial species undergoing normal consultations and by October 10, 2022, for terrestrial species undergoing extended consultations. For a description of the consultation paths these species will undergo, please visit the Species at Risk (SAR) Public Registry website at: The Minister of the Environment's Response to Species at Risk Assessments.

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016-07-06)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update December 2, 2021
Date modified: