Red Knot islandica subspecies
Scientific Name: Calidris canutus islandica
Taxonomy Group: Birds
Range: Northwest Territories, Nunavut
Last COSEWIC Assessment: April 2007
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern
Image of Red Knot islandica subspecies
There are currently six Red Knot Calidris canutus subspecies. Among these subspecies, which form distinct populations, three occur in Canada: C. c. islandica, C. c. roselaari, and C. c. rufa.
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.
Distribution and Population
The Red Knot islandica subspecies breeds in the northeastern Canadian Arctic, likely as far west as Prince Patrick Island and south to Prince of Wales Island, and along the north coast of Greenland, from the northwest up to about Scoresby Sound on the east coast. These Red Knots winter on the European seaboard in the United Kingdom and in the Netherlands. Their migration to their breeding grounds takes them through Iceland and northern Norway. This is one of only a few species of birds that breed in Canada and winter in Europe. Canada (specifically the Northwest Territories and Nunavut) is home to approximately 40% of the breeding population of Red Knots islandica subspecies. Canadian populations numbered approximately 81 000 adults in 2007; this represents a decline of about 17% since the end of the 1990s.
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. 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.
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. Survival rates among juveniles vary considerably from one year to the next depending on the weather conditions and the abundance of predators. The abundance of predators also fluctuates from year to year depending on the abundance of lemmings, the small mammals that are their main prey. On the breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic, the main predators of nests and eggs include the Arctic Fox, the Long-tailed Jaeger, and occasionally the Arctic Grey Wolf. These species, as well as other jaeger species, seagulls, falcons, and owls may also prey on hatchlings and, occasionally, adults. Red Knots generally live to the age of seven or eight. Everywhere they occur, Red Knots appear to be extremely faithful to their sites. During the nonbreeding season, 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, where open, undisturbed habitat is available.
In Canada, there do not appear to be any threats to the Red Knot islandica subspecies. However, overfishing of molluscs and crustaceans in the Dutch Wadden Sea poses an on-going threat to wintering populations, as it reduces the quantity of available food. In addition, habitat degradation in wintering grounds in the Dutch Wadden Sea may also threaten these populations. Finally, the effects of climate change (such as rising sea levels and changing conditions on Arctic breeding grounds) and increased predation (resulting from the rebounding of predator populations including falcons) could pose a long-term threat to Red Knot populations.
Federal ProtectionMore information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
The Red Knot is protected under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act, 1994. This law makes it an offence to disturb, kill, or collect adults, juveniles, and eggs.
Provincial and Territorial Protection
Other Protection or Status
Some of the Red Knot’s most important habitats have been recognized by the Ramsar Convention, an international intergovernmental treaty that provides a framework for national action and international cooperation for the conservation and sound management of wetlands.
Status of Recovery Planning
Recovery Strategies :
Name Recovery Strategy and Management Plan for the Red Knot (Calidris canutus) in Canada
Status First posting on SAR registry
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.
10 record(s) found.
- COSEWIC Status Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Assessments (1 record(s) found.)
- Response Statements (1 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Strategies (1 record(s) found.)
- Management Plans (1 record(s) found.)
- Orders (2 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Annual Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- Consultation Documents (1 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Document Posting Plans (1 record(s) found.)
COSEWIC Status Reports
COSEWIC Annual Reports
COSEWIC Annual Report - 2007 (2007)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.
Recovery Document Posting Plans
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