Red Knot; Huahou; Lesser Knot (Calidrus canutus)
The red knot breeds in the Arctic and comes to NZ for the Arctic winter, our summer. They are best seen from the Dawick St viewing platform at high tide, roosting on the sandspit, and can also be seen feeding on the mudflats at low tide. In the middle of summer you may see several hundred red knots.
The red knot is a stocky, non-descript wader that can be mistaken for other, rarer migrants. It is a plump bird with short, dull green legs and a short, heavy, straight black bill. In non-breeding plumage the red knot is grey brown on top, with pale feather edges that clearly mark the individual feathers, and has pale grey underparts with some markings on the flanks. In breeding plumage it has a rusty-red neck, head, and breast. The red knot can be distinguished from the great knot by its smaller size, the almost uniform colour of the crown, and a distinct pale eye-stripe. A gregarious species, it is often seen in flocks. Where there are few individuals, a group may roost with other species, especially bar-tailed godwits. It feeds on the mudflats at the tideline, drilling rapidly into the mud in search of invertebrates with a motion rather like that of a sewing machine needle.