Center for Biological Diversity

For Immediate Release, August 23, 2017

Contact: Mollie Matteson, (802) 318-1487,

Study: Rare Migratory Songbird Severely Threatened by Climate Change

Habitat for Demure Bicknell's Thrush is Being Destroyed

NORWICH, Vt.— The rare, mountaintop-dwelling Bicknell’s thrush has one of the smallest populations of any migratory songbird in North America and will likely lose half its habitat to climate change, according to a study released yesterday by the Vermont Center for Ecostudies.

In response to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will decide whether the thrush should be protected under the Endangered Species Act by Sept. 30. 

“Climate change is stealing habitat from the Bicknell’s thrush with disturbing speed,” said Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist at the Center. “These incredibly imperiled birds clearly need endangered species protection, but with the Trump administration making decisions, it’s not clear what will happen.”   Surveys of the highest summits in New York and New England conducted by trained citizen scientists over the past six years found that the thrush’s population is only about 71,000 adult birds in the United States. The White Mountain National Forest, Baxter State Park and the High Peaks Wilderness Area in the Adirondack Mountains account for more than half of the U.S. population. Scientists estimate the total global population at fewer than 120,000.

The Bicknell’s thrush breeds and raises its young in the subalpine zone of the Northeast’s highest mountains, and coniferous forests and coastal lowlands of southeast Canada. Climate change threatens the species’ habitat in all cases. As a result of increasing temperatures, deciduous trees are moving upslope into the coniferous forest favored by the Bicknell’s thrush. Ridgetop development, logging and air pollution constitute the other major threats to the species’ summer habitat. Logging, subsistence farming and other disturbances also imperil the species’ winter range, found on several Caribbean islands.

The Center for Biological Diversity is a national, nonprofit conservation organization with more than 1.3 million members and online activists dedicated to the protection of endangered species and wild places.

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