The Moonbirds Fly On: Famous Red Knots B95 and YY1 Seen at Delaware Bay

The iconic Red Knot shorebird B95 – named for the band attached to his upper left leg – has been spotted again on the Delaware Bay.

 

Now at least 21 years old, B95 is the oldest rufa Red Knot on record. In his lifetime, the famous shorebird has flown the equivalent of the distance between the earth and the moon and more than halfway back, earning him the nickname “Moonbird.”

 

He was seen and photographed by Argentinian researcher Patricia Gonzalez in late May at New Jersey’s Reeds Beach. Gonzalez was the one who gave him his famous orange B95 flag in November 2001, when he was caught for the second time six years after he was first banded in February 1995.

 

"It's incredible . . . a miracle," Gonzalez said in a recent interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer.

 

In 2012, B95 was featured in a critically-acclaimed book by author Phil Hoose titled "Moonbird: A Year on the Wind with the Great Survivor B95."

 

Gonzalez also saw and photographed a different iconic Red Knot – whose band reads YY1– in Delaware’s Mispillion Harbor on May 22. Another Moonbird, YY1 was first banded as an adult in March of 1998, making her at least 18 years old.

 

B95 and YY1 are among tens of thousands of Red Knots who rely on the Delaware Bay as a spring migratory stopover site. Seventy to 80 percent of the rufa Red Knot subspecies stops at the Bay each spring to rest and refuel as they migrate from the southern tip of South America to their Arctic breeding grounds – a one-way trip of nearly 10,000 miles.

 

The Delaware Bay became the first designated site in the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network in 1986 for its importance to Red Knots and many other migratory shorebird species, including Semipalmated Sandpiper, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Dunlin, and Short-billed Dowitcher.

 

Scientists estimate that when B95 was first banded in 1995, there were more than 150,000 rufa Red Knots stopping at the Delaware Bay each spring, a number which decreased by about 80 percent by 2007. One factor that contributed to this decline was the overfishing of horseshoe crabs for eel and conch bait in the 1990s. The crabs’ eggs serve as a primary food source for Red Knots and many other shorebirds during their spring stopover at the Delaware Bay.

In recent years, beach restoration projects and restrictions on horseshoe crab harvests have helped to stem declines in numbers of horseshoe crabs and Red Knots at the Delaware Bay.

 

The Celebrate Delaware Bay Network, which is coordinated by Manomet, provides Delaware bayshore residents and visitors to the area with opportunities to take action to help protect the horseshoe crabs and shorebirds and become stewards of the Bay and its rich resources.  

 

“Many shorebird species have experienced significant population declines in recent decades,” said Laura Chamberlin, coordinator of the Celebrate Delaware Bay Network. “B95 and YY1’s incredible stories of survival inspire us to continue the important work we are doing on a hemispheric scale to investigate these declines and recover shorebird populations.”

 

Visit the Celebrate Delaware Bay website and facebook page to stay up to date on the shorebird research efforts at the Delaware Bay and to learn how to get involved.

 

Gonzalez even managed to take a video of B95 at New Jersey's Reeds Beach in May, which can be viewed here

 

- Haley Jordan