Species At Risk

Red Knot rufa subspecies

(Calidris canutus rufa)


Red Knot rufa subspecies


The Red Knot is a plump, medium-sized shorebird (about 23-25 centimetres long) named for its brick-red face, throat and breast when in breeding plumage. Its back is speckled grey-brown and its short, straight beak is black. In winter, these birds are mostly grey with a whitish belly. Young birds look similar to winter adults but usually have a faint salmon-pink or peach wash on their chest. The rufa subspecies shows a lighter red breast than the Red Knot roselaari and islandica subspecies.

Action we are taking:


Red Knot rufa subspecies breeds within the central Canadian Arctic. The coastal mudflats along the southwest coast of Hudson Bay and James Bay in northern Ontario are very important staging sites (where birds stop to refuel) during both spring and fall migration. They are also regularly seen in small numbers during the fall in southern Ontario, usually along Great Lakes beaches and mudflats. Occasionally, large flocks have been seen in spring at select eastern Ontario beaches, such as Presqu’ile Provincial Park and Amherst Island, when birds flying non-stop from Delaware Bay to James Bay are forced to land because of bad weather.


The Red Knot rufa subspecies only occurs in Ontario during migration, where it may feed and rest on beaches. They prefer open beaches, mudflats, and coastal lagoons, where they feast on molluscs, crustaceans, and other invertebrates.


The main threat to the Red Knot rufa subspecies is loss of food at key migration sites. It times its spring migration to consume horseshoe crab eggs laid on mid-Atlantic beaches, and the unregulated commercial harvest of horseshoe crabs has resulted in a lack of food and a steep population decline. Habitat destruction at key migration and wintering sites due to pollution, recreation, and development is also a threat. Climate change has also had a serious impact on nesting habitat in the Arctic tundra.


The Red Knot rufa subspecies and its habitat are protected under Ontario’s Endangered Species Act.

What You Can Do to Help the Red Knot

  • The Ministry of Natural Resources tracks species at risk such as the Red Knot . You can use a handy online form to report your sightings to the Natural Heritage Information Centre. Photographs with specific locations or mapping coordinates are always helpful. nhic.mnr.gov.on.ca
  • Report any illegal activity related to plants and wildlife to 1-877-TIPS-MNR (847-7667).
  • Private land owners have a very important role to play in species recovery. You may be eligible for stewardship programs that support the protection and recovery of species at risk and their habitats.
  • Volunteer with your local nature club or provincial park to participate in surveys or stewardship work focused on species at risk.
  • Bird Studies Canada is working to advance the understanding, appreciation and conservation of wild birds and their habitat in Ontario and elsewhere. For more information on how you can help, visit: www.bsc-eoc.org.

Did you know?

The Red Knot rufa subspecies undertakes very long migrations. They travel all the way from breeding areas in the central Canadian Arctic to southern South America, a distance of nearly 15,000 kilometres.

Did you know?

Red Knot rufa subspecies eggs are very well camouflaged and blend in well with the bare tundra. This is important because Red Knot rufa subspecies nests are only shallow depressions in the ground and don’t offer much protection or concealment from predators.

The Endangered Species Act

Contact your local ministry office

Often the best source of local information on species at risk is your nearest ministry office. Call with your questions or concerns.