About the Rufa Red Knot

What is a Rufa Red Knot?

Red Knots (Photograph by Patricia Gonzalez)

The Rufa Red Knot is the subject of the book, Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose (FSG).  It is one of six sub-species of the Calidris Canutus, more commonly known as the Red Knot, a medium sized shorebird which breeds in the tundras of Canada, Europe, and Russia.

The Rufa is known for its exceedingly lengthy migratory trip, which can stretch from the bays of Terra Del Fuego, below South America, to the Canadian Arctic, where they mate and raise chicks.

The Rufa tackles this journey in huge chunks, sometimes traveling 5,000 miles in a single flight. In order to sustain this migratory style, the Rufa has a series of stopover point along its route, where it will gorge itself on the local prey. Each stopover site must be teeming with food, or the knots will be unable to pile on enough fat to produce energy for the next leg of their flight. Unfortunately, human influence is resulting in a decline of food at these rest-stops, and as a result the Rufa worldwide population has crashed in recent years.

To learn more about the Rufa Red Knot and how it interacts with its environment, watch this great video from Parks Canada:


Who is
B95?

Moonbird Photo by Jan van de Kam

B95 is the star of of the book, Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with Great Survivor B95 by Phillip Hoose (FSG) and the oldest known Rufa Red Knot in the world, clocking in at at least 19 years of age, possibly more.

In 1995, a team of Canadian researches traveled to Terra Del Fuego to band red knots, in the hopes of discovering why these birds flew so far each year, and what their routes of travel were. Using the catch, band, and release approach, the team banded 850 birds–enough that they quickly ran out of colored bands and had to improvise with strips of thin black plastic heated over a fire until pliable. B95 was one of these 850, and already he had his adult plumage, making him at least 3 years old.

He was recaptured in 2001, and banded with his now iconic “B95” flag. Spotted in 2003, and re-re-captured in 2007, B95 has become the most famous shorebird in the world. Something about him is exceptional: he has been blessed with an extraordinary combination of physical toughness, navigational skill, judgement and luck. To showcase just how exceptional B95 is, here’s a quick statistic: in the nearly two decades B-95 has been alive, 80-percent of the red knot population has disappeared. Not only has B95 survived, he has flown more than 325,000 miles–the distance to the moon and nearly halfway back, earning himself the fitting nickname of Moonbird.

Are Red Knots the Only Shorebirds in Danger of Becoming Extinct?

There are 117 shorebird species native to the Western Hemisphere. Of these, 30 are either non-breeding visitors or are considered casual visitors, leaving 87 “core” species in our Hemisphere. Some nest on beaches, some in the high Arctic, and others on grasslands. While many are short- or medium-distance migrants, some shorebirds—the Arctic-breeders such as red knots– are among the greatest migratory animals on the planet. According to the U. S. Shorebird Conservation Plan (USSCP), more than half (28) of the 53 shorebird species that breed in North America are at grave risk. And ominously, not a single North American shorebird species is in the category of “not at risk.”

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4 thoughts on “About the Rufa Red Knot

  1. Pingback: I Need Eggs: the Theme Song for MOONBIRD « Phillip Hoose

    • Dana, Charles Duncan from the Manomet Center for Conservation Sciences Shorebird Project says, “South Louisiana is not known to be a big destination for rufa Red Knots, but there is a significant—and poorly understood–population that winters along the mid/south Texas coast. Thus, it’s not at all out of the question. We’d welcome any reports, especially of birds carrying leg bands (like B95 does).”

  2. Pingback: Notes in the Margin: Moonbird | The Incubator

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