Red Knot Life History


Habitat Shorelines

  • Breeds in drier tundra areas, such as sparsely vegetated hillsides.
  • Outside of breeding season, it is found primarily in intertidal, marine habitats, especially near coastal inlets, estuaries, and bays.
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Food Aquatic invertebratesInvertebrates, especially bivalves, small snails, and crustaceans. During breeding season, also eats terrestrial invertebrates.Back to top


Nest Placement

Nest Ground

Nest Description

Cup-shaped depression on ground. Lined with dried leaves, grasses, and lichens.

Nesting Facts
Egg Description:Faint olive to deep olive-buff with dark markings, denser at large end.
Condition at Hatching:Downy young leave nest almost immediately.
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Behavior Ground ForagerMale makes an aerial singing display. Pecks at surface for prey or probes for buried prey. Swallows small mollusks whole. Despite their gregariousness during the winter, pairs maintain breeding territories and generally nest about 1 km (0.7 mi) apart from each other.Back to top


Conservation DecliningRed Knot is a global species. There are three subspecies in North America, and they all appear to be in decline. The populations wintering in South America dropped over 50% from the mid-1980s to 2003, and are listed as a federally threatened species in the U.S. A 2012 study estimated the total number of all three North American subspecies at about 139,000 breeding birds. North American Red Knot is on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List, which lists bird species that are at risk of becoming threatened or endangered without conservation action. The IUCN Red List lists Red Knot as a Near Threatened species. The occurrence of large concentrations of knots at traditional staging areas during migration makes them vulnerable to pollution and loss of key resources. Back to top


Andres, B. A., P. A. Smith, R. I. G. Morrison, C. L. Gratto-Trevor, S. C. Brown and C. A. Friis. 2012a. Population estimates of North American shorebirds, 2012. Wader Study Group Bulletin no. 119 (3):178-194.

Baker, Allan, Patricia Gonzalez, R. I. G. Morrison and Brian A. Harrington. 2013. Red Knot (Calidris canutus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York, USA.

Lutmerding, J. A. and A. S. Love. Longevity records of North American birds. Version 2015.2. Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Bird Banding Laboratory 2015.

Morrison, R. I. G., R. K. Ross and L. J. Niles. 2004. Declines in wintering populations of Red Knots in southern South America. Condor no. 106 (1):60-70.

Sibley, D. A. (2014). The Sibley guide to birds, second edition. Alfred A. Knopf, New York, USA.

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