May 28, 2014

USFWS to have public hearing on
listing red knot as threatened

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will have an informational session and public hearing on listing the rufa red knot as a threatened species on Thursday, June 5 from 5 until 8 p.m. at the Alligator National Wildlife Refuge Headquarters in Manteo.

The information session will be from 5 until 6:30, followed by public comments from 7 until 8.

The rufa red knot is a robin-sized shorebird that visits the U.S. on its annual journey between the tips of the Americas. Dwindling population numbers and increased risks prompted the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to propose listing the rufa red knot as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

According to the ESA, the word “endangered” means a species is at the brink of extinction now.  “Threatened” means a species is likely to be at the brink in the near future.

Among the conservation benefits authorized for threatened and endangered plants and animals are: protection from being jeopardized by federal activities; restrictions on take (harm, injure or harass) and trafficking; a requirement that the FWS develop and implement recovery plans for listed species under U.S. jurisdiction; authorization to seek land purchases or exchanges for important habitat; and federal aid to state and commonwealth conservation departments with cooperative endangered species agreements. Listing also lends greater recognition to a species' precarious status, encouraging conservation effort by other agencies (foreign, federal, state, and local), independent organizations, and concerned individuals.

Listing the red knot as threatened provides flexibilities that are not available for endangered species such as increased management flexibility for states, increased permitting authority for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for scientific, educational and other purposes, and the potential for special regulations that reduce or expand the normal protections if necessary under Section 4(d) of the ESA.

The Service takes the step of listing species as threatened or endangered because of any of the following factors:

  • The present or threatened destruction, modification, or curtailment of its habitat or range;
  • Overutilization for commercial, recreational, scientific, or educational purposes;
  • Disease or predation;
  • The inadequacy of existing regulatory mechanisms;
  • Other natural or manmade factors affecting its survival.

In the U.S., the rufa red knot is typically found along the East Coast. The knots tend to gather in marshes and shallow beach areas where they find food and shelter. In North Carolina, the knots feed mostly on coquina clams (Donax), sand fleas, mole crabs and other crabs. This migratory bird does not reproduce in North Carolina or stay here consistently year round in large numbers. During northern migration, some knots don’t reach all the way to the Arctic and they spend the summer in North Carolina before they resume their migration. Some knots overwinter in North Carolina instead of moving farther south, but how many knots or where they stay can vary from year to year.

There is no total population number for how many red knots stop-over or winter in North Carolina because the number can vary from year to year depending on available food resources and because there has been a lack of consistent long-term surveys. However, from 2009 to 2012, during North Carolina May spring peak migration, counts reported about 1,400 to 2,800 red knots. Incidental red knot sightings from the 2001 and 2006 wintering piping plover surveys reported 455 and 157 red knots, respectively, but these may be an under-representation because red knots, while counted using consistent methodology, were not the target of the survey efforts.

The largest concentration of knots is found in May in Delaware Bay, where studies show knots nearly double their weight to prepare for the final leg of their long migration to the Arctic. One bird, called B95 from the numbered flag scientists have attached to his leg, has been nicknamed the “Moonbird” because he has flown the equivalent of a trip to the moon and at least halfway back in his 20 or more years of migrations.

The Service is inviting the public to provide comments on or before June 15, 2014 by one of three methods:

  • Attend a public hearing, preceded by an information sessions on June 5 from 5 until 8 p.m. at the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuges Visitor Center located at 100 Conservation Way,Manteo, NC 27954.  Call 252-933-2255 to request reasonable accommodations for disabilities by May 30. TTY/TDD users, please dial 1-800-877-8339.
  • Comment online now. Visit Follow the instructions for submitting comments to Docket No. FWS-R5-ES-2013-0097.
  • Mail or hand-deliver your comments to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: Docket No. FWS-R5-ES-2013-0097, Division of Policy and Directives Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM, Arlington, VA 22203.

The Service proposed to list the knot on September 30, 2013. Comments provided during the first comment period need not be resubmitted, as those are already part of the administrative record. For more information visit

View this video about the red knot in North Carolina,

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