WatchList Species Account for Bicknell’s Thrush
(Catharus bicknelli)

Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species

Photo: George Jett

Bicknell’s Thrush, once considered a subspecies of the Gray-cheeked Thrush, has a fragmented and limited breeding range in montane and maritime forest habitats in the Catskills and Adirondacks of New York and the higher peaks of northern New England and Quebec, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. It winters only in the Greater Antilles, with the bulk of the population in the Dominican Republic.

Habitat destruction is a problem both on its breeding and wintering grounds, where it has been impacted by destruction of its favored habitat, wet to mesic broadleaf forest at higher elevations. Revisiting historic sites in the Dominican Republic revealed that several had been degraded to the point that thye were no longer suitable for the bird. In North America it is a habitat specialist restricted to montane forests where balsam fir dominates, with other components including red and black spruce, and white birch and mountain ash. It breeds above 3,690 feet in the more southern part of its range but as low as 2,460 feet farther north. It is often found in recently disturbed areas that are succeeding rapidly or on chronically disturbed areas on exposed ridgelines.

Acid rain is strongly implicated in the decline of high elevation forests in the Northeast, thus degrading the bird’s habitat. Global climate change may have a great impact on balsam fir forests, severely reducing their extent. Numbering only perhaps 50,000 individuals, the conservation status of the Bicknell’s Thrush is precarious.