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Start of Red Knot Migration in Virginia

Red Knots will soon be migrating along our coastline! The Red Knot is one of the largest and most colorful sandpipers in North America and their migration is one of the longest of any bird. Each spring they travel 9,300 miles from their wintering grounds at the southern tip of South America to return to their breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic.

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A flock of Red Knots. Photo by Don Faulkner.

Plan a trip to see the Red Knots late April – early June when they stop along Virginia’s coastline to refuel and replenish body weight. Your best bets for observing the Red Knots in Virginia are at these Virginia Birding & Wildlife Trail sites: False Cape State Park, Back Bay National Wildlife Refuge, and Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge.

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Red Knot. Photo by Ann Marie Morrison.

The Red Knot is a robin-sized shorebird with a somewhat chunky body, straight black bill and relatively short, thick legs. During migration, most adults will be in their full breeding plumage with a unique rusty orange-red color on their face that extends down their breast and underside. Their backs will be mottled with gray, black, and some orange. Breeding females and males are similar looking, but males are a little more brightly colored than females. It’s possible that some migrating individuals may still be in non-breeding plumage, in which case they will have a gray back and white belly, dark barring on their sides, and a white eyebrow on their face.

Look for migrating Red Knots on coastal shorelines and intertidal areas (mudflats and sand flats) where they will likely be pecking or probing the sand or mud foraging on invertebrates, including small mussels, clams, snails, crustaceans and marine worms.

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A flock of foraging Red Knots. Photo by Greg Faulkner.

As you head out to look for Red Knots, please be mindful that they are a Federally and State Threatened Species and listed as a Tier I Species of Greatest Conservation Need in the Virginia Wildlife Action Plan, which means that this species faces an extremely high risk of extinction or extirpation. If you spot a Red Knot or a flock of them, please observe from a respectful distance and make a contribution to citizen science by entering your observation into e-bird and the Virginia Wildlife Mapping project to help DGIF and other bird biologists keep track of their status. Good birding!

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Red Knots. Photo by Gregory Breese/ USFWS.

  • April 27th, 2016

Winter Wildlife Festival 2015

It was a great weekend at the Winter Wildlife Wildlife Festival held February 6–8 in Virginia Beach!

The festival tallied over 340 registered trip participants and drew over 600 visitors to Saturday’s exhibit hall. Two birding trips and an owl prowl were led by VDGIF staff, including a trip to Princess Anne WMA where 46 bird species were spotted.

In addition to the field trips, VDGIF biologists delivered presentations on black bears and fisheries at Back Bay to enthusiastic audiences. The VDGIF display in the exhibit hall engaged visitors of all ages in Virginia’s diverse wildlife, wildlife watching opportunities, and our Virginia is for Frogs campaign.

Thank you to Virginia Beach Parks and Recreation and all of our partners involved in putting on this terrific educational event! We hope that everyone who attended had as wonderful a time as we did.

  • February 13th, 2015