The Daily Bird/Monday Bird Report: Red Knot and a possible hat trick of listed species
July 27, 2020 — There are not many chances to observe a federally-listed bird species in Connecticut.
Threatened Piping Plovers are the most obvious. They’re small and beautifully camouflaged for their beach habitat but if you’re careful and view them from afar, you can find 60 or so pairs on Connecticut’s beaches.
Endangered Roseate Terns forage for fish in the near-shore waters of Long Island Sound.
Threatened Red Knots feed and rest on the state’s beaches in small numbers while migrating north and, like now, migrating back south.
Patrick Comins, Connecticut Audubon’s executive, and several others have been watching one at Milford Point in recent days. The Piping Plovers are still there too. And if you were really lucky, you might see a Roseate Tern on the wing.
That would be a federally-listed Hat Trick. Tough to get but worth keeping your eyes open for.
The presence of the Red Knot is interesting enough to be worthy of a combined Monday Bird Report-Daily Bird. This one has been updated from a version written in 2014.
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— Tom Andersen
Edited from a post published in 2014.
by Anthony Zemba
Not known to occur at inland locations, Red Knots can be found on Connecticut’s barrier beaches from mid-April to the end of May, and then again from July through mid-September. Sometimes non-breeding individuals may linger between migratory periods, and late individuals may pass through on southbound migration well into November. On rare occasions, individual stragglers may spend the winter on the Connecticut coast until spring.
How to find it: These birds spend most of their time foraging along the waterline within the intertidal zone, so flocks of shorebirds should be scanned with binoculars or telescopes from afar in order to not disturb the bird from its foraging behavior. As migrants, they must spend a majority of their time actively foraging. They do this to obtain enough calories to sustain their journey, establish a breeding territory and attract a mate with courtship displays (males), lay and incubate a clutch of eggs (females), and for the adults to defend the nest and young from predators.
What it looks like: Red Knots are a small but rather stocky sandpiper. At approximately 10.5″ in length, they are two to four inches bigger than most other species in the genus Calidris (often referred to by birders as “peeps”) including the more common Least and Semipalmated Sandpipers (C. minutilla and C. pusilla), but smaller than dowitchers, willets, and the American Oystercatcher.
In non-breeding plumage (September to April) the birds appear gray and non-descript to a beginner birder. Look for a large, gray, stocky sandpiper with a relatively short, straight bill, and whitish flanks with dark barring.
Keep that description in mind because young of the year birds – those moving through now – will look like non-breeding adults in general body coloration, but their gray backs will show a scalier looking pattern and, in good light, dull yellow-olive legs.
In full breeding plumage, the Red Knot will sport a pale salmon coloration on its neck, throat, belly and flanks, which contrasts with its gray, scaly-textured back.
The plumage of both sexes is similar.
Conservation status: The subspecies of the Red Knot that migrates through the Gulf and Atlantic Coasts (known as the “Rufa Red Knot” – Calidris canutus rufa) is listed as a threatened species under the federal Endangered Species Act.