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Bicknell's Thrush songbird may be declared endangered

A songbird indigenous to the Catskills and Adirondacks of New York state may require federal protection as a threatened or endangered species, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service said today.

The bird was discovered by botanist and amateur ornithologist Eugene P. Bicknell in 1881 on Slide Mountain in Ulster County, the highest peak in the Catskills. It has a migration range that stretches from the Caribbean to Canada. But it also has one of the most limited breeding and wintering ranges of any bird on the continent, the agency notes. It nests in the highest elevations in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York.

Bicknell, who was a founder of the American Ornithologists Union, was the author of “Review of the Summer Birds of Part of the Catskill Mountains,” which was published in 1882, a year after his discovery of the thrush that now bears his name.

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s announcement today follows its review of a petition by the Ceneter for Biological Diversity seeking protection of the species under the Endangered Species Act.

Now the federal agency will begin an extensive review of the species to determine if it should be added to the federal list of threatened and endangered species.

Bicknell’s Thrush is a little smaller than the Gray-cheeked Thrush and was originally thought to be a subspecies of the Gray-cheeked Thrush. But it was later proclaimed a unique species.

Changes in climate are affecting the Bicknell Thrush’s breeding and wintering regions. Loss of forests at higher elevations, shifts in food and an increase in extreme weather are among factors that could affect its survival, the Fish and Wildlife Service says. The changes affect other songbirds as well.

The federal agency, along with other organizations, both government-run and private, are collaborating on predicting and monitoring the effects of climate change on Bicknell’s Thrush, as well as managing and protecting its habitat and working to restore existing populations.

That collaboration, the Fish and Wildlife Service says, is crucial to ensuring survival of the unique songbird for years to come.

Irv Dean is the Gazette's city editor. Reach him by email to

PHOTO: U.S. Department of Agriculture

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