BIRD OF THE WEEK: SCIENTIFIC NAME: Catharus bicknelli
HABITAT: Breeds in high-elevation coniferous forests of northern New England, the Adirondacks, and southeastern Canada. Winters in Caribbean forests, particularly on Hispaniola.
The elusive Bicknell's Thrush was once considered a subspecies of the Gray-cheeked Thrush, but further research split them into two species in 1998 due to differences in plumage, size, song, and range.
This species faces a number of threats. Loss of its Caribbean wintering habitat is ongoing due to agricultural conversion, logging, and charcoal production. Its breeding habitat is under assault from development and loss of high-elevation forests. During migration, the thrushes sometimes are killed by collisions with glass and wind turbines.
Bicknell's Thrush has one of the smallest breeding and wintering ranges of any American bird and has suffered steady population declines. It is included on the 2014 State of the Birds Watch List as a highly vulnerable species due to its small population and range-wide declines.
Sign up for ABC's eNews to learn how you can help protect birds
Like others in this bird family, including Wood Thrush and Swainson's Thrush, Bicknell's forages on the ground, gleaning insects and berries from the forest floor. Both sexes mate with multiple partners in a season, which results in clutches fathered by several different males—a system useful for birds with limited food availability, since males bring food to the nest.
ABC participates in the International Bicknell's Thrush Conservation Group, which works to identify key sites for conservation of this species, develop best management practices, and raise awareness of the birds' needs.
Since 2011, we have been working to improve the management of Sierra de Bahoruco National Park in the Dominican Republic, an important wintering area for the Bicknell's Thrush and also home to the endangered Black-capped Petrel, Bay-breasted Cuckoo, La Selle Thrush, and Hispaniolan Crossbill.
ABC and in-country partners, including the Sociedad Ornitológica de la Hispaniola, have improved training for park guards, involved the local community in park protection, and begun work to restore deforested areas.
ABC is also working with Fundación Loma Quita Espuela in the Cordillera Septentrional, or Northern Mountain Range, in the Dominican Republic, another important wintering area for Bicknell's Thrush. Research has found that a higher percentage of wintering females use the lower-altitude, drier forest here, while males are more abundant in high-elevation forest with thick understories.
Read more about our work on Bicknell's Thrush.
Donate to support ABC's conservation mission!