Conserving the Nature of America
Press Release
Service Finds Migratory Songbird Does Not Warrant Endangered Species Act Protection
Agency committed to continuing efforts for Bicknell’s thrush conservation

October 4, 2017


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Bicknell's thrush

Naturalist John Burroughs described the Bicknell's thrush song in 1904 as sounding "as if the bird was blowing in a delicate, slender, golden tube, so fine and yet flute-like...a musical whisper of great sweetness and power." Credit: T. Brant Ryder, via Flickr Creative Commons
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The Bicknell’s thrush, a migratory songbird that summers in the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada, does not warrant listing under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), announced the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today. Although the agency expects the species to face some range-wide losses in its forested habitat, a review completed earlier this summer suggests that populations are likely to persist through the foreseeable future.

“Although the species does not meet the statutory definition of threatened or endangered, we recognize the environmental challenges it faces and are actively working with our partners to conserve the bird throughout its range in the U.S., Canada and the Caribbean,” said Paul Phifer, Service assistant Northeast Region director.

Temperature and precipitation patterns are changing in the species’ breeding and wintering range, and deforestation of its wintering grounds, primarily in Haiti and the Dominican Republic, is likely to continue. However, the Service found these changes are not likely to place the Bicknell’s thrush in danger of extinction within the foreseeable future, considered for this decision to be the next 30 years. Beyond that time, predicting behavioral responses becomes too speculative to be considered as the best available science for a listing determination.

“Our partners are seeking information on how the species may have been affected by recent hurricanes in the Caribbean,” Phifer said. “If new information emerges that suggests we should reevaluate whether listing is warranted, we will do that.”

The Bicknell’s thrush will continue to receive protection in the United States under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA), which makes it illegal for anyone to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter or offer for sale any migratory bird, or the parts, nests or eggs of the bird except under the terms of a valid permit issued by the Service.

The Service will also continue to support monitoring of Bicknell’s thrush populations through the International Bicknell’s Thrush Conservation Group. The group is a diverse coalition of scientists, natural resource managers, and conservation planners dedicated to developing a broad-based, scientifically sound approach to conserving the species through research, monitoring and management actions.

“All countries that support populations of the Bicknell’s thrush recognize the importance of working together to slow deforestation of its wintering habitat in the near future,” said Randy Dettmers, Service biologist on the International Bicknell’s Thrush Conservation Group coordination committee. “The collaboration to maintain forests on Hispaniola will give this bird the best chance of withstanding the uncertain long-term impacts of climate change.”

Other conservation actions include partnering with timber companies and land managers to use forestry management practices that are more compatible with the bird’s summer needs and researching ways to increase the resistance of montane forests to the effects of rising temperatures from climate change. The goal is to boost the bird’s global population (estimated between 97,000 and 139,500) by 25 percent by 2060.

Today’s decision follows an in-depth status assessment on a 2010 petition to list the Bicknell’s thrush under the ESA. The Service compiled and reviewed the relevant literature on the species and developed a draft biological species report that underwent partner and peer review by several state wildlife agencies including the U.S. Geological Survey, Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Department, Northeast Climate Science Center, National Phenology Network, and the U.S. Forest Service. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used this report to inform this ESA policy decision.

More information regarding this species and decision can be found here: The Federal Register will publish this 12-month finding on October 5, 2017, and it can be found starting October 4 at:

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