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Northeast Bird Being Considered for Endangered Status

T.B. Ryder

A northeastern songbird may be headed to endangered species status.

The Bicknell’s Thrush is a songbird with a limited migratory and breeding range. It nests and breeds in the high elevation pine forests in Maine, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Quebec and maritime Canada. The bird winters on a few Carribean islands. Scientists have confirmed a 7 to 19 percent annual population decline in parts of their range. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service says the Bicknell’s Thrush has one of the most limited breeding and wintering ranges of any bird on the continent. On Tuesday the Service announced a 90-day finding that the bird MAY warrant endangered status. Northeast Region Spokesperson Meagan Racey says that begins an extensive review to determine if the Bicknell’s Thrush should be added to the federal endangered species list.

The Center for Biological Diversity filed the 2010 petition to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Northeast Conservation Advocate Mollie Matteson is pleased that the service is moving forward to assess the status of what she calls a very vulnerable species.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology Senior Research Associate and Project Coordinator for the Tropical Conservation Initiative Dr. Eduardo Inigo-Elias says there are a number of pressures on the Bicknell’s Thrush, but the most serious is the impact of climate change on their breeding grounds.

Meagan Racey notes that conservationists consider the Bicknell’s Thrush to be one of the rarest birds in North America, and the petition presents a strong case.

The Bicknell’s Thrush was designated a distinct species in the mid-1990's.  Its decline is also attributed to ski resort development, acid rain which lowers calcium levels in nature, mercury deposition, and loss of breeding grounds, including areas in Haiti as people move and use the resources of the wintering habitat in the wake of the earthquake.