Knot

A medium sized, grey wader that often forms large flocks, sometimes of more than 100,000 birds, which swirl over The Wash in winter in an astonishing display of aerial acrobatics. Although relatively drab in winter, in the breeding season it has a rich red breast and richly patterned upper parts.

Where do they come from?

Knot are circumpolar breeders of the  high Arctic. Two populations use The Wash, birds that breed in Siberia (race canutus – green arrows on map) pass through The Wash on their way to wintering areas in Africa, while birds that breed in Greenland (race islandica – orange arrows) spend the winter here.

Map showing movements of Knot, from Time to Fly by Jim Flegg.

© BTO, from Time to Fly by Jim Flegg

When do they visit The Wash?

Knot are winter visitors to The Wash, with greatest numbers present in mid-winter (November to January). In cold winters, numbers can be augmented significantly by birds that would normally winter on the Waddensea.

Graph showing the number of Knot caught on The Wash, by month, between 1985 and 2016.

The number of Knot caught on The Wash, by month, between 1985 and 2016.

Habitat and Wash ecology

Knot feed on muddy shores close to the tide edge on all coasts of The Wash. They are easiest to see in the two to three hours either side of high tide when they stop feeding and come to roost at a few favoured sites. A visit to Snettisham or Holme on an early morning high tide in December or January will provide an unforgettable spectacle of huge flocks of birds coming into roost. Knot feed by touch on small clams, snails and worms buried just below the mud surface.

As the graph below shows, the number of Knot caught each year varies. Some annual fluctuations are related to the success of catching attempts rather than being representative of the number of birds present.

Graph showing the number of Knot caught on The Wash, by year, between 1985 and 2016.

The number of Knot caught on The Wash, by year, between 1985 and 2016.

Oldest WWRG bird

CK68568 Adult Male 27-08-1968 North Wootton, King’s Lynn: 52°47’N 0°25’E (Norfolk)
Caught by ringer 01-09-1992 Friskney: 53°3’N 0°13’E (Lincolnshire) 33 km NNW 24 y 0 m 5 d

The longevity record for the oldest Knot to be ringed in Britain & Ireland stands at 27 years 3 months 29 days.

Movements

The following map shows where Wash-ringed Knot have been found abroad (blue dots) and where foreign-ringed birds that have been encountered on The Wash were ringed (maroon dots).

May showing where Wash-ringed Knot have been found abroad (blue dots) and where foreign-ringed birds that have been encountered on The Wash were ringed (maroon dots).

Facts and figures

Scientific name: Calidris canutus                                                        Conservation Status: amber listed

Weight: males and females – 137 g                                                     Average wing length: 169 mm

Age at first breeding: 1 years                                                              Typical lifespan: 7 years

The graph below shows the average weights, by month, of Knot caught on The Wash between 1985 and 2016. The thick horizontal line gives the average weight and the box indicates the middle 50% of weights. The thin vertical lines indicate the range of observations, with the circles identifying the most extreme values.

Graph showing the average weights, by month, of Knot caught on The wash between 1985 and 2016.

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