The red knot, a mighty and tiny rust-colored shorebird and Suncoast visitor known as a prolific voyager, received federal protection this week after a 14-month review by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
The robin-sized red knot, which has declined in population by about 75 percent since the 1980s, will be listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. The ruling prohibits killing, shooting, hunting or otherwise harming the bird.
The red knot makes occasional stopovers in Pinellas and Manatee counties on trips between the Arctic Circle and the tip of South America. Nicknames for the red knot include Moonbird. A researcher estimated that a banded red knot traveled enough miles to reach the moon and halfway back in 21 years of migration, according to the FWS.
The status of threatened means a plant or animal is likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future. Endangered means the species faces extinction.
The birds feed on clams and mussels and also horseshoe crab eggs in Delaware and New Jersey. The FWS linked the decline to climate change and rising sea levels that affect the bird's habitat and availability of food.