The DuPont Nature Center near Milford is a popular spot each for birdwatchers to gather each May.
It is there on the coast of the Delaware Bay that they hope to catch their annual glimpse of rufa red knot birds as they feast on the eggs of horseshoe crabs.

The DuPont Nature Center near Milford is a popular spot each for birdwatchers to gather each May.
It is there on the coast of the Delaware Bay that they hope to catch their annual glimpse of rufa red knot birds as they feast on the eggs of horseshoe crabs.Now, after the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced federal protection for the red knot on Tuesday, maybe this tradition will get a chance to live on.
Red knots have been listed as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. A “threatened” designation means a species is at risk of becoming endangered throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
“Although historic threats in the Delaware Bay area have been ameliorated thanks to the actions of federal and state partners, our changing climate is posting new and complex challenges to the red knot’s habitat and food supply,” said Service Director Dan Ashe.
“It has never been more critical that we take positive action to save this bird.”
The red knots’ population has fallen by about 75 percent since the 1980s, largely attributed by biologists as due to the decline of one of its primary food resources – horseshoe crab eggs in the Delaware Bay.
The food stop along the Delaware coast each May is vital in the birds’ 9,300-mile migration from the tip of South America to the Canadian Arctic. It provides fuel for the final 1,500-mile leg of their journey to their breeding grounds in the Arctic Circle.
“The red knot is a remarkable and resilient bird known to migrate thousands of miles a year from the Canadian Arctic to the southern tip of South America,” Ashe said.
“Unfortunately, this hearty shorebird is no match for the widespread effects of emerging challenges like climate change and coastal development, coupled with the historic impacts of horseshoe crab overharvesting, which have sharply reduced its population in recent decades.”
International, state and local governments, the conservation community, beachgoers and land managers are currently helping to ensure red knots have safe areas to winter, rest and feed during their long migrations.
They combine to help knots in a number of different ways, including managing the harvest of horseshoe crabs, managing disturbance of key habitats, improving management of hunting outside the United States, and collecting data to better understand the birds.
In making its decision to list the red knots as “threatened,” the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service analyzed data in more than 1,700 scientific documents and considered issues raised in more than 17,400 comments provided during 130 days of public comment periods and three public hearings.
Protections under the Endangered Species Act will take effect 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.
As required by the ESA, the Service is also reviewing the U.S. range of the red knot to identify areas that are essential for its conservation, known as critical habitat.
The Service expects to propose critical habitat for the red knot for public review and comment in 2015 after completing the required review of economic considerations.
Kevin Kalasz, a species conservation and research manager for the Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife, was in support of the listing.
“Red knots are a sentinel species that allow us to understand the health and condition of the Delaware Bay,” he said. “They are the largest migratory shorebird that feed primarily on horseshoe crab eggs.
“So when they’re doing bad, we know something bad is going on with horseshoe crabs or other conditions in the bay. It’s really an indicator species.”