Tag Archives: bicknell’s thrush

It’s almost International Migratory Bird Day!

Birds matter, and they’re worth protecting. From controlling insects and rodents to dispersing seeds and pollinating flowers, a healthy bird population is essential for the environment. Birds have also served as an inspiration for the arts and sciences throughout the ages. Without birds, we also wouldn’t have the classic Hitchcock movie.

International Migratory Bird Day celebrates the importance of these winged travelers, and highlights the deeply nuanced challenge that is conserving a species that crosses political borders. Check out this infographic from our friends at birdday.org.

Bicknell's thrush favorite habitat are cloud forests, high on mountain peaks. via Flickr / Christine Fournier

Bicknell’s thrush favorite habitat are cloud forests, high on mountain peaks. via Flickr / Christine Fournier

This year, we’re focusing on Bicknell’s thrush—a species that breeds in Northeast high-elevation spruce-fir forests and winters primarily on Hispaniola. With less than 125,000 Bicknell’s thrush remaining worldwide—precariously low for a migratory bird — this rare songbird’s habitat faces a variety of threats, including climate change and development. But recently on Hispaniola, where 90 percent of the remaining population winter, researchers have found that cloud forest habitat is being cut down. In the Sierra de Bahoruco range in southwestern Dominican Republican, our conservation partners at Vermont Center for Ecostudies (VCE) and Grupo Jaragua have documented illegal clearing and burning of forests for industrial avocado and coffee plantations, as well as subsistence agriculture.For real progress in the conservation of Bicknell’s thrust, this vulnerable songbird needs to be protected across its international range.

via Flickr / Maureen Leong-Kee

Bicknell’s thrush faces numerous threats, chief amongst them being habitat loss by commercial agriculture in Hispaniola. via Flickr / Maureen Leong-Kee

In light of these problems, a coalition of scientists, conservation planners and natural resource planners formed the International Bicknell’s Thrush Conservation Group to research and implement conservation actions.  This research helped to inform the 2010 Bicknell’s Thrush Conservation Action Plan created by USFWS, VCE and Canadian Wildlife Service.  The goal is to increase the global population of Bicknell’s thrush by 25 percent by 2060 by improving the bird’s protection and restoring breeding and wintering habitat. The Action Plan was also the impetus for the USFWS and its partners to fund a position working on wintering habitat with the people of the Dominican Republic and Haiti for on-the-ground conservation implementation.

The American Ornithological Society only recognized Bicknell’s thrush as a distinct species in 1994, which opened the gates for further study of the thrush’s numbers. USFWS has supported and worked closely with VCE and the IBTCG on developing and implementing a breeding population monitoring program that has been in operating since 2000.

via Flickr / Kent McFarland.

Bicknell’s thrush are highly endangered, with scientists estimating there are less than 125,000 left in the world.  via Flickr / Kent McFarland.

Besides threats from habitat loss, Bicknell’s thrush faces predation from red squirrels, which occasionally raid the nest to eat eggs and chicks. Also, climate change is reducing the total area the songbird can breed within — with a warming climate, the birds are retreating higher and higher to find the shrinking islands of conifer forests.

This International Migratory Bird Day, try and listen to the birds around you. See how impossible it is to imagine the world without that sound? That’s what makes conservation worth it.

The Bicknell's thrush is among the rarest of eastern North America's songbirds. Climate change threatens the viability of both its wintering and breeding areas. Photo: Steve Faccio, courtesy of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies

Keeping an eye on the Bicknell’s thrush in Sierra de Bahoruco

The Bicknell's thrush is among the rarest of eastern North America's songbirds. Climate change threatens the viability of both its wintering and breeding areas. Photo: Steve Faccio, courtesy of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies

The Bicknell’s thrush is among the rarest of eastern North America’s songbirds. Climate change threatens the viability of both its wintering and breeding areas. Photo: Steve Faccio, courtesy of the Vermont Center for Ecostudies

This post is reblogged from the Vermont Center for Ecostudies. We recently wrote about natural resource damage settlement funds going from Massachusetts to help birds that migrate through the Northeast but that are in need of conservation in their wintering grounds in Belize.

This story also emphasizes the importance of research and conservation activities for migratory wildlife not only where they spend their time in the U.S., but also where they migrate to and from.


 

From the Vermont Center for Ecostudies:
Followers of VCE’s work on Hispaniola over the past 20 years are well aware of Sierra de Bahoruco and its importance for overwintering Bicknell’s Thrush. This rugged and remote mountain range in southwestern Dominican Republic supports some of the island’s most impressive biodiversity, hosting nearly all of Hispaniola’s 31 endemic bird species. Since 1994, VCE and our Dominican partners have conducted field research that helped establish Sierra de Bahoruco as the centerpiece of UNESCO’s Jaragua-Bahoruco-Enriquillo Biosphere Reserve, created in 2002.

Esteban Garrido and Jesus Almonte surveying recently cleared cloud forest. From the original VCE blog, courtesy of  Yolanda Leon.

Esteban Garrido and Jesus Almonte surveying recently cleared cloud forest. From the original VCE blog, courtesy of Yolanda Leon.

Recently, however, our conservation colleagues at Grupo Jaragua have documented rampant illegal clearing and burning of cloud forests on Bahoruco’s southern slopes, well within limits of the protected national park boundaries. While conducting Bicknell’s Thrush surveys this past winter, long-time VCE associates Esteban Garrido and Jesus Almonte watched in alarm as the forests where they were finding thrushes disappeared before their eyes. Follow-up surveys revealed accelerating forest loss. Some areas had been planted with potatoes, avocado, beets, carrots, and beans. On others, cows grazed and makeshift ovens converted felled trees into charcoal. … Read the rest at the VCE blog!

Intact cloud forest understory in Sierra de Bahoruco. From the original VCE blog, courtesy of Eladio Fernandez.

Intact cloud forest understory in Sierra de Bahoruco. From the original VCE blog, courtesy of Eladio Fernandez.