Migrating Songbird, Bicknell’s Thrush Considered for Endangered Species Status

The Bicknell’s thrush, a rare songbird that breeds atop mountains in the Adirondacks and northern New England and winters in the Caribbean, is being considered for endangered species status, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced. An estimated 90 percent of the global population is concentrated in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, where they are exposed to a large number of predators.

The sparrow-sized brown bird, which nests at elevations over 3,000 feet in New York, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, has one of the most limited breeding and wintering ranges of any bird in North America. The main threat to the bird is climate change that’s reducing its boreal mountain habitat of spruce and fir forest, said Mollie Matteson of the Center for Biological Diversity in Richmond, Vt. “This year is the warmest on record in the Northeast so the need to protect the Bicknell’s thrush couldn’t be more urgent,” Matteson said Tuesday.

Scientists consider the decline of a plant or animal species to be an indication of the overall health of the natural environment. Measures to protect the Bicknell’s thrush would also benefit other species that depend on the boreal forests they inhabit. [. . .] Even before Tuesday’s announcement, Maine conservationists and wind-power critics had raised concerns about the possible negative impacts of wind-power projects on habitat used by the Bicknell’s thrush. There currently are 195 turbines built or under contract in Maine, representing an investment of nearly a billion dollars, according to the website windforme.org. It is still a long way to go before the bird could be listed as threatened or endangered, officials said. The first stage – an internal evaluation of the information that the Fish and Wildlife Service already has on the Bicknell’s thrush – has been completed.

[. . .] Even if it eventually got listed as threatened or endangered, “it doesn’t preclude development” such as logging, tourism or renewable energy, he said. There still would be ways that industry or developers could modify project plans to reduce threats to the bird. [. . .] Audubon’s Duchesne said the Bicknell’s thrush is special because it is rarely seen below an altitude of 3,000 feet – and they “sing only at dawn and dusk on mountaintops.” According to the International Bicknell’s Thrush Conservation Group, the bird’s numbers have declined to about 125,000 globally. Over the past 10 years, U.S. populations have been more stable than those in Canada, which have shown “steep declines … due to habitat loss,” the Fish and Wildlife Service reported.

For the winter, they migrate to the Caribbean. An estimated 90 percent of the global population is concentrated on the island of Hispaniola – home to the Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic – where forested habitats have been reduced significantly, and where predation also has been a problem.

To listen to the Bicknell’s thrush’s typical voice and view a map of its habitats, click here.

For full articles, see http://online.wsj.com/article/APca4b733f816347dcb2884574ece6d2cf.html and http://www.pressherald.com/news/Endangered-status-considered-for-rare-thrush.html

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