Alaska Science Center

Red Knot, Calidris canutus rogersi & roselaari

High-Priority Species List

Red Knots are a high priority species because those in Alaska either co-occur with birds coming from Australasia or are part of a population whose breeding range extends to Asia (Wrangel Island).
Three subspecies of Red Knots occur in the Australasian flyway. Those breeding on Wrangel Island and likely in northwestern Alaska are recognized as C. c. roselaari (Engelmoer and Roselaar 1998). Their nonbreeding range was formerly thought to be Florida but recent work with stable isotopes (P. Atkinson et al. unpublished) suggests their range is likely along the eastern coast of the Pacific from southern California to Central America. The total population of roselaari is estimated at fewer than 50,000 birds (Alaska Shorebird Group, unpublished). The only place in Alaska where they are known to occur in numbers is on the outer Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta in May (Gill and Handel 1981, 1990). Sixteen birds collected there in May have been identified as putative roselaari (P. Tomkivich and T. Piersma, pers. obs.). The subspecies C. c. rogersi (numbering about 220,000 birds; Bamford et al. in press) also occurs in the flyway, with nesting restricted to Chukotka, Russia (Tomkovich 2001). Their nonbreeding range encompasses Australasia, primarily Australia and New Zealand. Movement to and from the breeding and nonbreeding grounds entails prolonged stays in coastal East Asia, primarily on estuarine habitats. Five of the 16 knots from the YKD in May had isotopic signatures mapping reasonably well with those of birds from New Zealand and Australia, suggesting that rogersi co-occurs with roselaari on the YKD in spring. Whether or not this is an annual phenomenon or one dictated by events such as conditions on the breeding grounds is unknown. A third, recently described subspecies (C. c. piersmai; Tomkovich 2001) also occurs in the flyway. These birds breed throughout the New Siberian Archipelago of central Siberia and spend the nonbreeding period in Australasia, possibly in New Zealand (P. Battley pers. comm.). It is unlikely that they occur in Alaska during any season.
No. of samples: Total 200 from Alaska. Additional samples could be collected from birds sampled at staging sites used during northward migration, primarily in central East Asia but also from the nonbreeding grounds in North and Central America if such sites are identified.
Sampling locations: The primary location is the central YKD (coastal sites from Hooper Bay to Hazen Bay). Secondary locations include known breeding areas (Brooks Range and Wrangel Island) and autumn staging areas (coastal estuaries between Norton Sound and the central Alaska Peninsula). In 2006, birds would be sampled at secondary cites only incidental to other sampling efforts.
Sampling timeframe: During May and August-September on the YKD; during June at known breeding areas (Baird, DeLong, Endicot, and Philip Smith mountains of the Brooks Range); during June on Wrangel Island; during August-September on coastal estuaries of western and southwestern Alaska.
Sample demographics: Adults will be sampled during spring. There are no known areas where adults concentrate in Alaska following nesting. Sparse numbers of juveniles occur fairly regularly in autumn on most estuaries in western Alaska.
Methods of capture: The sample goal of 200 can most easily be achieved through fecal sampling and/or live-trapping of birds at on-shore roost sites in spring, particularly on the central YKD near Tutakoke and Old Chevak. Smaller numbers of samples could be obtained from lethal capture (~20-40 birds).
Other targeted species: At the proposed primary sampling sites it will be possible to sample small to moderate numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits, Dunlin, and Rock Sandpipers.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Yukon Delta NWR (May-June and possibly August-October)
Contact: Brian McCaffery

U.S. Geological Survey
Alaska Science Center - Shorebird Project
Contact: Robert Gill
Bamford, M., D. Watkins, W. Bancroft, and G Tischler. 2006. Migratory shorebirds of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway: population estimates and important sites. Wetlands International Oceania. (In press).

Engelmoer, M., and C. Roselaar. 1998. Geographical variation in waders. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.

Gill, R. E., Jr., and C. M. Handel. 1981. Shorebirds of the eastern Bering Sea, p. 719-738. In D. W. Hood and J. A. Calder (eds.) The eastern Bering Sea shelf: Oceanography and resources. Vol. 2. Univ. of Washington Press, Seattle.

Gill R. E., Jr., and C. M. Handel. 1990. The importance of subarctic intertidal habitats to shorebirds: a study of the central Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, Alaska. Condor 92:702-725.

Tomkovich, P. S. 2001. A new subspecies of Red Knot Calidris canutus from the New Siberian Islands. Bull. B.O.C. 12:257-263.

Distribution map of Red Knot

Ranking Score: 12.5 (with fecal sampling score for "Can samples be obtained" would change from 2 to 3 and thus the overall score from 12.5 to 13.5)

Asian H5N1 ranking criteria for Red Knot, Calidris canutus rogersi & roselaari.

Total of partial
contact with Asia1
Contact with
known "hot spot"2
Habitat used in
Pop. in Alaska4
Can samples be
roselaari pop. nests Wrangel Is & w. Alaska and winters Pacific coast of Americas. rogersi nests Chukotka /New Siberian Is. and winters Australia/New Zealand, passing through c.e. Asia
On migration rogersi passes through areas wher H5N1 identifiied
roselaari <50,000 rogersi 220,000 thought to stop in Alaska in spring but numbers unknown (possibly several 10,000s)
Could be difficult to obtain target numbers
Image of Red Knot, photo by R. Gill