Red knot declared endangered in NJ

A red knot lands on a beach near Newport, N.J. The small bird migrates more than 10,000 miles each year to the Delaware Bay. Several other animals were also put on the endangered list.

The red knot, a small shorebird whose 10,000-mile migration brings it to Delaware Bay each spring, has been designated an endangered species in New Jersey, the state Department of Environmental Protection announced Thursday.

Wildlife officials said that the new status, a change from threatened, did not add protections. However, it is formal recognition that despite years of efforts to help the bird, its numbers continue to decline.

The red knot population on the bay is about 15,000, down from nearly 100,000 two decades ago.

It will be interesting to see what happens this spring. Come May, the birds will begin arriving, along with other shorebirds, many of which are also in decline, just not as serious.

At the same time, horseshoe crabs will begin stirring from the mud at the bottom of Delaware Bay, where they spend the winter, and heading for shore, drawn by moon and tides to spawn on the beaches.  Their eggs will be laid just in time for the birds, famished at mid-migration, to feast.

Larry Niles, a New Jersey biologist who for years was head of the state Endangered and Nongame Species Program -- a part of the Department of Environmental Protection -- has been one of the bird's most vocal champions. And one of the chief researchers who had discovered that a scarcity of crab eggs, due to overhearvesting, is causing all the trouble.

There are enough eggs for the crabs, just not enough for the birds.

His blog is wonderful, especially the recent post about how difficult it is to get people to care. Read it here.

NEw Jersey's change in status for the red knot was one of several revisions and additions adopted by the DEP. Put on the endangered list were two other birds - the black rail and golden-winged warbler - as well as the gray petaltail, which is a species of dragonfly, and Indiana bat.

Six dragonfly species and three birds - the American kestrel, cattle egret, and horned lark - were added to the state's threatened list.

Species upgraded because their status has improved include the bald eagle, osprey, peregrine falcon, red-shouldered hawk, northern goshawk, short-eared owl, vesper sparrow, and Cooper's hawk.

"We have many positive takeaways from this most recent update to the lists, but we are also reminded that much work still lies ahead of us," said DEP Commissioner Bob Martin.