Red Knot

Scientific name: Calidris canutus rufa
Mi’kmaq name:


The Red Knot is a medium-sized (25-28 cm) shorebird with a small head and straight, thin bill. In their non-breeding plumage, they have a light grey back (with white feather edges), grey-brown breast streaks, white underparts and grey legs. Juveniles are similar in appearance but have a black band along the inside of the white feather edge, buffy underparts, and green-yellow legs. In their breeding plumage, they have a brilliant chestnut red breast, neck and face, white underparts, dark legs and a brown back with reddish, tan and black streaks.


Their wintering grounds and habitat during migration consist of coastal areas with large sandflats or mudflats, where they can feed on invertebrate. Peat banks, salt marshes, brackish lagoons and mussel beds are also visited. They breed in the arctic in barren like windswept ridges, slopes and plateaus.

Interesting Points

  • Migrate thousands of kilometres from Arctic breeding grounds to wintering range at the southern tip of South America.
  • The rufa subspecies has declined by 70 per cent over the past decade.
  • Without serious conservation efforts this bird may become extinct within ten years.
  • Males care for the chicks on the breeding grounds until they can fly.


  • Severe depletion of horseshoe crab eggs (a critical food source during migration) due to overfishing of horseshoe crabs in Delaware Bay (in the United States).
  • Decreased habitat availability during migration (from activities like wetland drainage).
  • Disturbance, severe weather events, oil pollution and climate change.

Courtesy of Species at Risk in Nova Scotia: Identification & Information Guide


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