Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network

Red Knot Wintering Population Relatively Stable


Aerial surveys of the rufa Red Knot (Calidris canutus) population wintering in Tierra del Fuego, South America, in January 2016 revealed a total of 11,150 birds. Although this is a slight decrease from the number recorded in January 2015, it is still within the range observed during 2011–2015 (10,000–14,000 birds). While the population is not showing any signs of a sustained recovery (there were 50,000 birds as recently as 2000), at least it has not undergone any further dramatic declines.

On the wing in Tierra del Fuego, South America / Courtesy of Reserva Costa Atlantica de Tierra del Fuego

As in previous years’ surveys, most (98.7%) of the rufa Red Knots occurring in Tierra del Fuego in 2016 were found in Bahía Lomas, Chile. In Argentina, numbers at Rio Grande were again very low—only 150 birds. As recently as 2008, counts here were in the range of 3,000 to 5,000 birds, but have obviously fallen drastically since then. No rufa Red Knots were recorded in Bahía San Sebastian this boreal winter. The concentration of nearly all the Red Knot in one location (Bahía Lomas), and in one major flock, makes them particularly vulnerable to any environmental problems that might occur locally.

The 2016 surveys also provided important data on the Hudsonian Godwit (Limosa haemastica) population. Bahía Lomas and Bahía San Sebastian are both major wintering sites for the species. This winter’s total of 24,092 birds is the lowest recorded on the surveys since 1982. Worryingly, annual survey data suggest that the population has been decreasing in recent years, and especially since 2004.

Surveys of Bahía Lomas were conducted by Guy Morrison, Ricardo Matus, Antonio Larrea, and Raul Papia, with a helicopter provided by ENAP (Chile’s National Petroleum Company); while those at Rio Grande and Bahía San Sebastian were conducted by Guy Morrison, Tabare Baretto, and Emanuel Mandieta. The surveys were made possible thanks to the Bobolink Foundation in support of the Atlantic Flyway Shorebird Initiative (AFSI).

For more information, please contact Rob Clay (rclay@manomet.org), Director, WHSRN Executive Office, Manomet, based in Asunción, Paraguay.