Shorebirds on their annual mass migration put on a “thrilling spectacle” yesterday in Cape May County, an environmental organization said.
More than 1,110 red knots, a federally protected threatened species under the Endangered Species Act, were spotted at North Reeds Beach in Middle Township, according to a release from the Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey.
The red knots were accompanied by a host of other shorebirds, including ruddy turnstones, dunlins, semipalmated sandpipers, and sanderlings.
This area along the Delaware Bay is a “hotspot” for migratory shorebirds.
According to the release, “the famished flocks fed on horseshoe crab eggs, while much larger laughing gulls congregated along the shoreline and a few crabs used the incoming waves to flip themselves over and return to the bay.”
Some red knots fly over 18,000 miles each year in their migrations from locations as far south as Tierra Del Fuego in South America all the way north to the Canadian Arctic, with Delaware Bay serving as an irreplaceable stopover.
“These imperiled shorebirds undertake one of the most incredible wildlife migrations in the world — and their key stopover is New Jersey’s own Delaware Bay,” stated Conserve Wildlife Foundation of New Jersey Executive Director David Wheeler. “Red knots and other shorebirds depend on a healthy supply of horseshoe crab eggs, so the birds can build up the energy needed to complete this world-class migration.”
Migratory shorebirds have suffered a sharp decline over the past few decades, with red knots dropping by around 75%, according to the organization.
“Unfortunately, this hearty shorebird is no match for the effects of widespread emerging challenges like climate change and coastal development, coupled with the historic impacts of horseshoe crab over harvesting, which have sharply reduced its population in recent decades,” said U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director Dan Ashe in a red knot information sheet.