The Center for Biological Diversity filed a lawsuit today against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to protect Bicknell’s thrush as an endangered species.
The thrush breeds only high in the mountains of the Northeast and eastern Canada, including Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and New York; scientists have predicted that 98 percent or more of the songbird’s U.S. habitat could be lost due to climate change. The Center petitioned for protection for the imperiled songbird in 2010, but the agency has failed to make a final decision on the petition.
“The thrush is an icon of our New England woods, but it’s disappearing right before our eyes,” Mollie Matteson, a conservation advocate at the Center’s Northeast office, said in a statement released to the press. “This songbird needs Endangered Species Act protection to stand a chance in the face of climate change.”
Bicknell’s thrushes are olive-brown, migratory birds that nest in dense, coniferous forests near timberline in the Northeast and also breed in Quebec and Canada’s Maritime provinces. Scientists first recognized them as a distinct species in 1993.
In 2012 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service determined that the thrush may qualify for Endangered Species Act protection, but advocates are still awaiting a final decision.
The overriding threat to Bicknell’s thrush is considered climate change. Climate models show the songbird’s breeding habitat shrinking in the Northeast according to the Center for Biological Diversity. “If the climate of the Northeast warms by approximately 6 degrees Fahrenheit,” the Center’s press release said, “the bird’s habitat in the United States will virtually disappear. Scientists have already documented annual population declines of nearly 20 percent in parts of the bird’s range. ”
“From superstorms to vanishing birds, climate change is jeopardizing life as we know it,” according to Matteson. “Our fate isn’t separate from the fate of the thrush. We’ve got to take immediate action to save other species — and ultimately ourselves.”
The thrush is one of 10 species across the country that the Center says it is prioritizing for Endangered Species Act protection this fiscal year. Under a settlement agreement with the Service that expedites protection decisions for 757 species, the Center can push forward 10 decisions per year. The priority species for 2013 are a fox, two birds, two amphibians, two reptiles, a fish and two freshwater invertebrates.
Bicknell’s thrush photo by T.B. Ryder, USFWS.