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The Red Knot is a medium-sized shorebird with a small head, straight black bill (tapering from thick base to thinner tip) and long tapered wings, giving an elongated streamlined profile to the body. Red Knots in breeding plumage have a red face, breast and belly. The rufa Red Knot breeding plumage is paler and more "washed out" than the islandica subspecies.

Weight: 135 g (5 oz). Length: 23 to 25 cm (9 to 10 in).

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The Red Knot rufa subspecies is one of two subspecies of Red Knot known to breed in the NWT; the other is the islandica subspecies. The rufa subspecies breeds in the central Canadian Arctic, potentially including Banks and western Victoria Islands in the NWT, and winters in the southeastern U.S.A., Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and South America. 

Range map information

Red Knots live in dry vegetated and barren habitats in the Arctic, such as windswept ridges, slopes or plateaus. Their nests are usually placed in a small patch of vegetation within about 500 m of a pond, wetland or waterbody.

Red Knots typically arrive on the breeding grounds from late-May to early-June and begin laying their clutch of four eggs by mid to late-June. The eggs are incubated for a period of 21 to 23 days before the chicks hatch in mid-July.

Delaware Bay in New Jersey, U.S.A., is a critical northward migration stopover for rufa Red Knots. Their migration is timed to coincide with the spawning of Horseshoe Crabs. Horseshoe Crab eggs are a very important food source for migrating rufa Red Knots because the eggs, unlike any other food resource, are immediately metabolized into fat. The birds must double their weight at Delaware Bay to successfully continue their northward migration to the breeding grounds.

The Red Knot rufa subspecies population has dramatically declined since the 1980s due to a decrease in their primary food source on their migration route.

Potential threats in the Northwest Territories include breeding habitat degradation from threats like climate change and industrial development, as well as direct disturbance at nest sites from resource exploration and development.

COSEWIC assessed Red Knot rufa subspecies as Endangered in 2007 because of a large population decline and a decrease in their primary food source on their migration route. They re-assessed it in 2020 and confirmed the status of Endangered. Red Knot rufa subspecies was listed as Endangered under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA) in 2012. The SARA provides protection for individual rufa Red Knots and their residences. Red Knots and their nests are also protected under the federal Migratory Birds Convention Act.

In 2020, COSEWIC assessed three populations of Red Knot rufa that breed in the Canadian Arctic but have different wintering grounds, including two populations that were formerly part of the roselaari subspecies. 

A national recovery strategy and management plan for Red Knot is available on the federal Species at Risk Public Registry.