The rufa red knot (Calidris canutus rufa), a shorebird that migrates over 9,300 miles every spring and autumn, is the latest species to be proposed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for listing as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. According to the proposal, the species is “likely to become in danger of extinction in the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range.” The bird’s range extends throughout 25 countries and 40 U.S. states, including the Atlantic and Gulf coasts that are key stopover areas for spring and fall migration.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) biologists attribute the steep decline in rufa red knot populations to climate and environmental changes. Climate change adversely affects the shorebirds’ food supply, migration timing, and breeding habitat in the Arctic. Rufa red knots feed on horseshoe crab eggs in the Delaware Bay during their spring stopover, but due to heavy commercial harvest of horseshoe crabs, the birds are struggling to gain enough weight to complete the long migration. Sea level rise, shoreline projects, and commercial development are also destroying rufa red knot habitat, which hinders its breeding success.
FWS is accepting public comments until November 29, 2013, and will publish a separate rule identifying critical habitat for the rufa red knot before the end of 2013. Public comments can be submitted electronically at www.regulations.gov or mailed to Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R5-ES-2013-0097; Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, Suite 222; Arlington, Virginia 22203.
Sources: Environmental and Energy Daily (September 30, 2013), Federal Register (September 30, 2013), U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (September 27, 2013).