Gnat, Knat, Red Sandpiper, Silver Plover
Status: Winter visitor from northern Greenland and from the Queen Elizabeth Islands of high Arctic Canada west to Prince Patrick Island. Most occur between October & February.
Conservation Concern: Red-listed in Ireland due to concerns over delines in the global population, which is undergoing a moderate decline.
Identification: Short-legged plump wader, larger than Dunlin. Fairly non-descript grey plumage, juveniles in autumn show warm buff wash on breast and underside. Occasional brick-red summer plumaged birds occur on passage. Legs greyish-green. Bill straight, of similar length to head. Long-winged appearance in flight, with thin white wing-bar and pale-grey rump patch. More likely to be seen in very large flocks than singly or small groups.
Call: Soft, nasal 'whet-whet'.
Diet: Feed predominantly on bivalve mussels and crustaceans. Macoma balthica is the preferred prey and Hydrobia ulvae, Mytilus edulis and Cerastoderma edule are selected when Macoma sp. is absent close to the surface of the sediment. Knots possess large numbers of sensors on their bills and that they are able to detect hard-shelled prey even when buried beyond the reach of their bills.
Breeding: Breed at low density, and often close to the coast, nesting on well concealed and sparsely vegetated gravel and rocky slopes.
Wintering: The wintering distribution is entirely coastal, and their preferred habitat mostly includes estuarine sites with extensive areas of muddy sand. They occur mostly in large flocks and on fewer estuaries than other wader species.
Where to see: Dundalk Bay in County Louth and Strangford Lough in County Down support most birds (7,500 & 10,000 birds respectively). Dublin Bay in County Dublin, Boyne Estuary in County Louth, Rogerstown Estuary in County Dublin and Shannon & Fergus Estuary in County Clare all support >2,000 birds.
Monitored by: Irish Wetland Bird Survey.