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Most populations of migrant shorebirds around the world are in serious decline, suggesting that vital condition-dependent rates such as fecundity and annual survival are being affected globally. A striking example is the red knot (Calidris canutus rufa) population wintering in Tierra del Fuego, which undertakes marathon 30,000 km hemispheric migrations annually. In spring, migrant birds forage voraciously on horseshoe crab eggs in Delaware Bay in the eastern USA before departing to breed in Arctic polar deserts. From 1997 to 2002 an increasing proportion of knots failed to reach threshold departure masses of 180-200 g, possibly because of later arrival in the Bay and food shortage from concurrent over-harvesting...