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Delaware Bay Connection


The Delaware Bay is extraordinarily rich in biological resources.  The beaches, mudflats and marshes that line Delaware Bay provide abundant food and habitat for many species of shorebird for both nesting and migration. 

  • As many as 30 species visit Delaware Bay in May
  • Up to a million birds may visit Delaware Bay
  • The majority of the shorebirds that visit are Red Knot, Ruddy Turnstone, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Sanderling, and Dunlin.

The search for food and nesting areas has led some shorebirds to incredible migrations.  Delaware Bay Estuary fits prominently in the life cycle of some of these migration masters. One of these is the Red Knot. Red knots

Red Knot Fast Facts:

  • Some populations winter at the southern tip of South America
  • Breed in the Canadian Arctic
  • More than half of their Western Hemisphere population may be here in May
  • Will travel 20,000 miles round trip per year!
  • Will make non-stop flights of 2,000 miles or more!
  • Arrive in Delaware Bay at very low weights after long flights
  • Will double their weight in 2 weeks!
  • More than 90% of their diet is horseshoe crab eggs.
  • The weight they gain from horseshoe crab eggs allows them to make their final non-stop flight to their Arctic breeding grounds.  It will also help sustain them during the initial nesting period until food becomes available there.

Flyway migration mapThe Horseshoe Crab Connection

The dependency Red Knots and other shorebirds have on the availability of horseshoe crab eggs makes the conservation of horseshoe crab spawning areas critically important. Shorebirds need:

  • Enough eggs to support all of the birds that visit the Bay
  • Areas free of disturbance so they can feed peacefully
  • Areas to safely roost at night and during high tide that are free from predators and disturbance.

Horseshoe crab eggs

Photo by Rob Robinson

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