Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Bicknell's Thrush - a most threatened species

A once in life-time experience: Yesterday I joined a group of birders on a van tour up  Mt. Washington, the highest mountain in New Hampshire, to see Bicknell's Thrush. We left at 5:30 in the morning and stopped midway at about 3000 ft where the landscape turned into a stunted forest of mostly balsam fir with lesser amounts of spruce, white birch and mountain ash.


We scanned the tree tops and after a while found a BT on a distant tree bathing in the morning sun - too far for the lens on my camera.


We then heard two males chasing each other a short distance down hill from us. Suddenly one of them appeared in a tree very close to us. He wasn't shy at all.




He began singing, asserting that this territory was his.


Because of its fragmented breeding range in remote inhospitable forests at high elevations in the Northeast it is one of the least known bird species in North America. It also one of the rarest and possibly most threatened.

Distribution of Bicknell’s Thrush (BNA)


There may not be more than 50,000 individuals. Its winter range is even more restricted ; it regularly only occurs on four islands in the Greater Antilles where its habitat is threatened by deforestation.



Reference: Birds of North America Online  and Jeffrey Wells' Birders Conservation Handbook

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20 comments:

  1. Great post and photo series Hilke! My first Bicknell's Thrush was on Mt. Washington too!

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  2. You got great pictures of it Hilke. An enjoyable trip.

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  3. FABulous shots Hilke and definitely worth the early start.

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  4. Great photos and excellent reminder on need for habitat protection, VCE doing everything possible to save this species.

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  5. Great!! I'm green. I've been wanting to go after this bird for many years. You have some wonderful pix as well

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  6. That was the trip of a lifetime eh? YOU got some fantastic shots too--Zippity Do Dah!!

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  7. Wow that's so great that you got to see it up close! Congrats!

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  8. Hiya Hilke,

    How thrilling to go on an outing specifically in pursuit of one particular bird.
    You all seemed warmly dressed. Was that because you were fairly high up?
    The beautiful photos must be so treasured by you, when it is such a rare bird.
    I wonder if its song is anything like our native garden thrush'.

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  9. Beautiful images and a lovely read.

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  10. Many thanks for all your comments.
    @ duck or grouse: I am not familiar with the Garden Thrush. Do you live in the UK? The song is similar to the on of the Gray-cheeked Thrush. Mt Washington is notorious for large difference in temp between bottom and top. That day I think it was about 40 F on top, and in the low 60's at mid level, but it warmed up pretty fast and we all ended up having to peel off layers.

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  11. Love this post. Would very much like to join your group. A very beautiful set of images. Your close ups are stunning. Great work.

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  12. Great post and photos, Hilke! Congrats on your sighting. It is sad to hear this bird is rare and threatened.

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  13. Thanks for your comments.
    @Eileen, unfortunately we have little control of what happens in their wintering grounds. They are well protected here.
    @Fotokarusellen, the group was just an incidental collection of birders who signed up for the same tour. They has come from Texas, California, Minnesota, Kansas ... and my husband and me from Vermont.

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  14. Great captures Hilke!! Boom & Gary of the Vermilon River, Canada.

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  15. Wonderful shots -- always enjoy seeing images of birds singing!

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  16. Congratulations on your fantastic shots!

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  17. Oh...this is exciting. I am excited just to read your post and see the great pictures of this bird. Sure hope their numbers improve.

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  18. Oh My goodness! What a teat! I did not know most of this. Thanks for the info! and congrats!

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