Great Knot

Did you know?

Great Knots start to breed around the age of two years.

Usually silent. Double noted whistle in flight.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
Minimum Size: 
Maximum Size: 
Average size: 
Breeding season: 
June to August
Clutch Size: 
22 days
23 days
Nestling Period: 
20 days
25 days
Conservation Status
Associated Plants
Plants associated with this species
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Atlas Number: 
What does it look like?

The Great Knot is a medium-sized shorebird with a straight, slender bill of medium length and a heavily streaked head and neck. In Australia, they are usually seen in non-breeding plumage, with grey upperparts with pale scalloping, and white underparts with heavy streaking on the neck, grading to spots on the breast. In breeding plumage, Great Knots have a black band across the chest and black, white and reddish speckles on the upperparts.

Similar species: 

Of birds which are similar to the Great Knot, the Red Knot is slightly smaller with a shorter, more slender bill and a more prominent eyebrow, smaller spots on the underparts, and shorter wings. The Curlew Sandpiper is smaller and has a downcurved bill.

Where does it live?

Great Knots occur around coastal areas in many parts of Australia during the southern summer. They breed in eastern Siberia, and when on migration they occur throughout coastal regions of eastern and South East Asia.


In Australia, Great Knots inhabit intertidal mudflats and sandflats in sheltered coasts, including bays harbours and estuaries. They forage on the moist mud, and they often roost on beaches or in nearby low vegetation, such as mangroves or dune vegetation.

Seasonal movements: 

Great Knots are migratory birds which spend from December to May in Australia and then return to Siberia to breed.  A few may overwinter especially in northern Australia.

What does it do?

Great Knots mostly eat bivalve molluscs, as well as snails, worms, crustaceans and, very occasionally, sea-cucumbers. They feed by rapidly jabbing their bill into the soft mud of intertidal mudflats, especially along the water’s edge, taking prey from the surface of the mud or just below it. 


Great Knots do not breed in Australia. Instead, they nest in Siberia during the northern summer, where they lay up to four eggs. Both sexes incubate the eggs, but only the male accompanies the broods of young.

Living with us

With people and Great Knots sharing an appetite for shellfish, the Great Knot could have been a symbol of harmony between humans and wildlife. Instead, it is now emblemic of the decline of global bird migration. The destruction of the Knots’ most important stop-over site in Korea has not only caused the species’ population to nose-dive by nearly a third, it has deprived 20,000 people of their livelihoods (shellfish).

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