Red Knot standing over a flipped horseshoe crab

Red Knots & Horseshoe Crabs: A Delaware Bay Exclusive

Experience Amazing Wildlife On the Delaware Bay

The Delaware Bay is a birdwatcher’s paradise, and the decks of the Cape May-Lewes Ferry provide some of the best viewing opportunities around. And, just beyond the decks of the Ferry, up the coast from the Cape May Terminal, one of the most amazing happenings in the birdwatching world takes place each spring.

Red Knots

Have you ever heard of a Red Knot? No, we’re not talking about pulling apart a Twizzler and tying it, as much fun and as delicious as that might be. We’re talking about the Red Knot, a migratory shorebird that travels over 9,000 miles annually between South America and their breeding grounds in the Arctic. If you’re wondering, 9,000 miles is roughly the equivalent of 529 trips across the Delaware Bay between Cape May and Lewes. 

Beyond their aptitude for long-distance travel, the shores of the Delaware Bay here in New Jersey play an important role in the Red Knots’ migration. And the reason is something you might not expect: Horseshoe Crabs. 

Red Knots & Horseshoe Crabs

Horseshoe crabs? What do those pre-historic looking creatures have to do with a 9,000 mile Red Knot migration? Great question! The Nature Conservancy does a great job of explaining it in detail here, but the cliff notes version is that during May and June each year, Horseshoe crabs spawn along the coastline of the Delaware Bay, and because the timing coincides with their migration, hundreds of thousands of Red Knots show up to stuff themselves on an all-they-can-eat buffet of horseshoe crab eggs. The feast allows them to refuel, and provides them with the energy they need to continue on their journey up to their breeding grounds in the Artic.

This stop on their migration only happens here on the shores of the Delaware Bay, so if nature is your thing, make sure to add this to your bucket-list this spring! 

To book your Ferry travel to see the Red Knot migration, click here

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