Spring migration patterns of red knots in the Southeast United States disentangled using automated telemetry

Red Knots on Deveaux Bank, South Carolina. Image Credit: Maina Handmaker


Red Knots use the Southeast United States as a stopover during north and southbound migration and during the winter. We examined northbound red knot migration routes and timing using an automated telemetry network. Our primary goal was to evaluate the relative use of an Atlantic migratory route through Delaware Bay versus an inland route through the Great Lakes en route to Arctic breeding grounds and to identify areas of apparent stopovers. Secondarily, we explored the association of red knot routes and ground speeds with prevailing atmospheric conditions. Most Red Knots migrating north from the Southeast United States skipped or likely skipped Delaware Bay (73%) while 27% of the knots stopped in Delaware Bay for at least 1 day. A few knots used an Atlantic Coast strategy that did not include Delaware Bay, relying instead on the areas around Chesapeake Bay or New York Bay for stopovers. Nearly 80% of migratory trajectories were associated with tailwinds at departure. Most knots tracked in our study traveled north through the eastern Great Lake Basin, without stopping, thus making the Southeast United States the last terminal stopover for some knots before reaching boreal or Arctic stopover sites.

In Scientific Reports
Maina Handmaker
Maina Handmaker
PhD Candidate

I am a graduate student in the Senner Lab at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. My current research is focused on the stopover ecology of long-distance migratory shorebirds.