Western Atlantic Shorebird Association

International Banding Project

Interim Report -- Expedition 1999
Contributed by: Patricia González
Date: August 18, 1999

Since 1995 international teams under the general direction of Professor Allan Baker from Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, have carried out a concerted programme of research on Red Knot (Calidris canutus rufa) populations along the Atlantic coast of the Americas. This year, we visited Lagoa do Peixe National Park in southern Brazil from April 21 to May 5. There we have been work with Ines do Nascimento, Scherizino Scherer and Paulo Antas of CEMAVE, who have been banding shorebirds for many years in the National Park. Our visit was timed to coincide with later stages of the northwards migration, but even so we found many fewer Red Knots than expected from earlier work. The birds were using ‘snail meadows' surrounding lagoons or Atlantic seashore habitats. We were able to catch and band 91 Red Knots, of which 9 of were fitted with radio-transmitters.

Simultaneously, at Delaware Bay, USA, teams started to catch, band and radio-track arriving Red Knots. By early June, when most of the birds had departed for the breeding grounds in the Canadian arctic, about 7,200 birds have been banded, 2600 of which were Red Knots marked with year and locality-specific combinations of colour bands. Analysis of weight data revealed that rates of fattening in Delaware Bay are high for Red Knots, and points to the importance of horseshoe crab eggs in providing the vital reserves of fat necessary for successful breeding in the Arctic. This year the migration was delayed by persistent head winds, and many birds arrived late or did not make it to Delaware Bay. Only two of 19 Red Knots radio-tagged in Brazil were detected at Delaware Bay about one month after their capture in Lagoa do Peixe.

An additional 65 radio-transmitters were fitted to Red Knots in New Jersey by the Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife staff lead by Larry Niles and Kathy Clark. Larry then obtained funding for an aerial search in the arctic in late-June, and ably assisted by Mark Peck from the Royal Ontario Museum they lead the assault on the final frontier. The team struck ‘gold' in flights around Southampton Island at the head of Hudson Bay, and detected eight transmitter birds one of which was trapped on the nest.

These are colour band combinations we used in 1999:
Lagoa do Peixe: none on left leg; metal on right tibia, blue flag over yellow on right tarsus. Delaware: green flag on left tibia, red on left tarsus, metal on right tibia, green on right tarsus. New Jersey: green flag on left tibia, yellow on left tarsus, metal on right tibia, orange on right tarsus.

The following Institutions participated in the international programme in 1999:

  • Royal Ontario Museum, Canada
  • Fundación Inalafquen, Argentina
  • CEMAVE, Brazil
  • US Fish & Wildlife Service, USA
  • Wash Wader Ringing Group, UK
  • British Trust for Ornithology, UK
  • Dept. of Biological Sciences, University of Durham, UK
  • Netherland Institute for Sea Research, Netherlands
  • Victoria Wader Study Group, Australia
  • New Jersey Division of Fish, Game and Wildlife, Endangered Non-Game Species Program, USA
  • Delaware Coastal Program, USA
  • Delaware National Estuarine Research Reserve, USA
  • National Ocean Service National Estuarine Research Reserve Program, USA

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