Species Profile

Bicknell's Thrush

Scientific Name: Catharus bicknelli
Taxonomy Group: Birds
COSEWIC Range: Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia
COSEWIC Assessment Date and Status Change: November 2009
COSEWIC Status: Threatened
COSEWIC Status Criteria: A4b
COSEWIC Reason for Designation: This species has one of the most restricted breeding ranges among the forest birds of North America. It inhabits the forests of montane and cool coastal zones, as well as high elevation regenerating forests over 600m in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the northeastern United States. It winters in the Greater Antilles, where the bulk of its population appears to be in the Dominican Republic. Despite the difficulty to adequately monitor the species, all the available indices on trends point to significant declines in population and area of occupancy. Preliminary results from the Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas project suggest a 40% decline in the area occupied over the last three generations, while the High Elevation Landbirds Program suggests more dramatic declines in the same regions. Recent surveys in Quebec also indicate declines in some locations. While reasons for the decline are unclear, habitat loss on the wintering grounds, management practices such as pre-commercial thinning in regenerating forests and climate change are leading to a reduction of suitable high-elevation habitat.
COSEWIC History of Status Designation: Designated Special Concern in April 1999. Status re-examined and designated Threatened in November 2009.
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Threatened
Date of Listing (yyyy-mm-dd): 2012-06-20

Please note that this information is provided for general information purposes only. For the most up to date and accurate list of species listed under the Species at Risk Act, please see the Justice Laws Website.

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Quick Links: | Photo | Description | Habitat | Biology | Threats | Protection | Recovery Initiatives | Recovery Team | National Recovery Program | Documents

Image of Bicknell's Thrush

Bicknell's Thrush Photo 1
Bicknell's Thrush Photo 2

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Description

The Bicknell’s Thrush is the smallest of the northern Catharus thrushes. Both males and females have distinctive warm brown feathers on the back, with a chestnut–brown tint on the upper tail feathers and on the primaries when the wings are folded. It is similar to the other northern Catharus thrushes, particularly the Gray–cheeked Thrush. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Distribution and Population

The Bicknell’s Thrush has one of the most restricted breeding ranges among the forest birds of North America and has a fragmented breeding distribution. It is limited to high elevations of the mountain ranges of the northeastern United States and southeastern Canada, as well as to some coastal and lowland areas in Canada. The species may have disappeared from some sites previously occupied, mostly at the periphery of its range. The Bicknell’s Thrush winters in the Greater Antilles, where the bulk of its population appears to be in the Dominican Republic. The species also occurs in smaller numbers in southwestern and eastern Haiti and in the Sierra Maestra of southeastern Cuba. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Habitat

The Bicknell’s Thrush is a habitat specialist, generally associated with undisturbed dense habitat or disturbed areas undergoing vigorous succession (mid–successional) of Balsam Fir–dominated habitat and high stem densities (>10,000–15,000 stems/ha). Three breeding habitat types have been identified: montane/high–elevation forests, coastal lowlands and highland–industrial forests. In montane/high–elevation areas, the Bicknell’s Thrush selects undisturbed habitats and regenerating forests disturbed by fir waves, windthrows, ice and snow damage, fire, and insect outbreaks (e.g. spruce budworm infestation) and characterized by standing dead conifers and dense regrowth of Balsam Fir. The species also uses chronically disturbed, stunted–tree stands. In coastal areas it selects dense spruce–fir stands maintained by cool sea breezes and a high precipitation regime. In highland–industrial forests, the Bicknell’s Thrush may be found in dense coniferous or sometimes dense mixed second–growth regenerating stands. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Biology

The Bicknell’s Thrush has an unusual breeding system defined by multiple male and female partners. A single male may sire nestlings in different nests in a single season and may or may not provide food to those broods. Males are not territorial and home–ranges usually overlap. Male home–ranges may overlap two female home–ranges, which are usually discrete. The Bicknell’s Thrush has a highly skewed sex–ratio; 1 female: 1.49 to 3.0 males. Survivorship of summer–resident adults has been estimated at 0.65 ± 0.04 (± SE) in Vermont, and at 0.28 ± 0.11 for females and 0.63 ± 0.07 for males in Quebec. On the breeding grounds, predation may be a key limiting factor for Bicknell’s Thrush productivity. The longevity record for the Bicknell’s Thrush is 11 years while the annual mean age varies between 1.73 and 2.44 years. Generation time is estimated to be 2 to 3 years. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Threats

On the breeding grounds, management practices, such as pre–commercial thinning, decrease breeding habitat in the medium term by significantly reducing Balsam Fir stem density. Increasing temperatures resulting from climate change are facilitating the progression in altitude of the Hardwood–Balsam Fir/Spruce–Mountain forest ecotone, thus reducing the amount of breeding habitat for the Bicknell’s Thrush. The rapid expansion of communication towers, “green–energy”/ wind turbines and recreational projects in the Bicknell’s Thrush breeding range also contributes to habitat loss and fragmentation. On the wintering grounds major habitat losses have occurred on Hispaniola Island (Haiti and Dominican Republic), which is the stronghold of the species’ wintering range. The conversion of those lands for human uses is likely the main driving factor of the species decline. There is no indication that this phenomenon is slowing down. (Updated 2017/05/25)

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Protection

Federal Protection

The Bicknell's Thrush is protected under the federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). More information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.

Provincial and Territorial Protection

To know if this species is protected by provincial or territorial laws, consult the provinces' and territories' websites.

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Recovery Initiatives

Status of Recovery Planning

Recovery Strategies :

Name Recovery Strategy for the Bicknell's Thrush (Catharus bicknelli) in Canada
Status First posting on SAR registry

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Recovery Team

Contact Person for Recovery Planning

  • Québec: Unité de planification de la conservation - Service canadien de la faune - Chair/Contact -
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Documents

PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.

31 record(s) found.

COSEWIC Status Reports

  • COSEWIC Assessment and Status Report on the Bicknell's Thrush in Canada (2010-09-03)

    The Bicknell’s Thrush is the smallest of the northern Catharus thrushes. Both males and females have distinctive warm brown feathers on the back, with a chestnut-brown tint on the upper tail feathers and on the primaries when the wings are folded. It is similar to the other northern Catharus thrushes, particularly the Gray-cheeked Thrush.
  • COSEWIC Status Report on the Bicknell's Thrush (Catharus bicknelli) in Canada (1999-04-30)

    Although Bicknell's Thrush (Catharus bicknelli) records can be traced back to 1881, much remains to be learned about this species due to its historic classification as a subspecies of the Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus), its preference for inaccessible, high elevation habitat, and its elusive behaviour. While the species breeds in suitable habitat in Quebec, the Maritimes, and the northeastern United States, the full extent of its wintering range is largely unknown, as are population numbers and trends, and life history traits.

Response Statements

  • Response Statement - Bicknell's Thrush (2010-12-02)

    This species has one of the most restricted breeding ranges among the forest birds of North America. It inhabits the forests of montane and cool coastal zones, as well as high elevation regenerating forests over 600m in Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and the northeastern United States. It winters in the Greater Antilles, where the bulk of its population appears to be in the Dominican Republic. Despite the difficulty to adequately monitor the species, all the available indices on trends point to significant declines in population and area of occupancy. Preliminary results from the Maritimes Breeding Bird Atlas project suggest a 40% decline in the area occupied over the last three generations, while the High Elevation Landbirds Program suggests more dramatic declines in the same regions. Recent surveys in Quebec also indicate declines in some locations. While reasons for the decline are unclear, habitat loss on the wintering grounds, management practices such as pre-commercial thinning in regenerating forests and climate change are leading to a reduction of suitable high-elevation habitat.

Recovery Strategies

  • Recovery Strategy for the Bicknell's Thrush (Catharus bicknelli) in Canada (2020-07-30)

    The Minister of Environment and Climate Change and Minister responsible for the Parks Canada Agency is the competent minister under SARA for the Bicknell’s Thrush and has prepared this recovery strategy, as per section 37 of SARA. To the extent possible, it has been prepared in cooperation with the Quebec Department of Forests, Wildlife and Parks, the New Brunswick Department of Energy and Resource Developent, and the Nova Scotia Department of Lands and Forestry, as per section 39(1) of SARA.

Orders

  • Order Acknowledging Receipt of the Assessments Done Pursuant to Subsection 23(1) of the Act (volume 145, number 23, 2011) (2011-11-09)

    His Excellency the Governor General in Council, on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment, hereby acknowledges receipt, on the making of this Order, of assessments conducted under subsection 23(1) of the Species at Risk Act by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada with respect to the species set out in the annexed schedule.
  • Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act (volume 146, number 14, 2012) (2012-07-04)

    The purpose of the Order Amending Schedule 1 to the Species at Risk Act is to add 18 species to Schedule 1, the List of Wildlife Species at Risk (the List), and to reclassify 7 listed species, pursuant to subsection 27(1) of SARA. This amendment is made on the recommendation of the Minister of the Environment based on scientific assessments by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) and on consultations with governments, Aboriginal peoples, stakeholders and the Canadian public.

COSEWIC Annual Reports

  • COSEWIC Annual Report - 2010 (2010-09-03)

    Under Canada’s Species At Risk Act (SARA), the foremost function of COSEWIC is to “assess the status of each wildlife species considered by COSEWIC to be at risk and, as part of the assessment, identify existing and potential threats to the species”. During the past year, COSEWIC held two Wildlife Species Assessment Meetings and reviewed the status of 79 wildlife species (species, subspecies, populations). During the meeting of November 2009, COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of the status of 28 wildlife species. COSEWIC assessed or reviewed the classification of an additional 51 wildlife species (species, subspecies and populations) during their April 2010 meeting. For species already found on Schedule 1 of SARA, the classification of 32 species was reviewed by COSEWIC and the status of the wildlife species was confirmed to be in the same category (extirpated - no longer found in the wild in Canada but occurring elsewhere, endangered, threatened or of special concern). The wildlife species assessment results for the 2009-2010 reporting period include the following: Extirpated: 6 Endangered: 39 Threatened: 16 Special Concern: 17 Data Deficient: 1 This report transmits to the Minister the status of 46 species newly classified as extirpated, endangered, threatened or of special concern, fulfilling COSEWIC’s obligations under SARA Section 24 and 25. A full detailed summary of the assessment for each species and the reason for the designation can be found in Appendix I of the attached report. Since its inception, COSEWIC has assessed 602 wildlife species in various risk categories, including 262 Endangered, 151 Threatened, 166 Special Concern and 23 Extirpated. In addition, 13 wildlife species have been assessed as Extinct. Also, to date, 46 wildlife species have been identified by COSEWIC as Data Deficient and 166 wildlife species were assessed as Not at Risk. This year has been a particularly productive year for COSEWIC’s Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge (ATK) Subcommittee. In April 2010 COSEWIC approved the Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge Process and Protocol Guidelines, providing clear and agreed principles for the gathering of Aboriginal Traditional Knowledge to carry out COSEWIC functions as required under Section 15(2) of SARA (See Appendix III of the attached report). We are grateful for the rich and enthusiastic contribution made by community elders and experts in helping the ATK Subcommittee prepare the ATK protocols.

Permits and Related Agreements

Consultation Documents

  • Consultation on Amending the List of Species under the Species at Risk Act: Terrestrial Species – November 2010 (2010-12-02)

    As part of its strategy for protecting wildlife species at risk, the Government of Canada proclaimed the Species at Risk Act (SARA) on June 5, 2003. Attached to the Act is Schedule 1, the list of the species that receive protection under SARA, also called the List of Wildlife Species at Risk. Please submit your comments by February 4, 2011 for species undergoing normal consultations and by February 4, 2012 for species undergoing extended consultations.

Critical Habitat Descriptions in the Canada Gazette

Recovery Document Posting Plans

  • Environment and Climate Change Canada's Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan (2016-07-06)

    Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Three-Year Recovery Document Posting Plan identifies the species for which recovery documents will be posted each fiscal year starting in 2014-2015. Posting this three year plan on the Species at Risk Public Registry is intended to provide transparency to partners, stakeholders, and the public about Environment and Climate Change Canada’s plan to develop and post these proposed recovery strategies and management plans. However, both the number of documents and the particular species that are posted in a given year may change slightly due to a variety of circumstances. Last update December 2, 2021

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