- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Turdidae
A small thrush of dense forests in remote parts of northeastern North America, Bicknell’s is nearly identical to the more widespread Gray-cheeked Thrush. Bicknell’s has a somewhat redder tail and shorter, yellower bill, but was treated as a subspecies of Gray-cheeked until 1995. Still the best way to distinguish the two is by their lovely songs: Bicknell’s has a rising rather than falling ending. This declining species has small breeding and wintering ranges; and its mountaintop habitat is vulnerable to climate change, making it a species of high conservation concern.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Finding a breeding Bicknell’s Thrush is something of a mission, often requiring a hike to the top of a mountain with an early-morning start to arrive while males are still singing. Joining a field trip organized specifically to see Bicknell’s Thrush is certainly the best way to enjoy this shy, subtle bird. Migrants in spring and fall pass through some of the most densely populated parts of the eastern U.S., but at these times they are often silent and very difficult to distinguish from Gray-cheeked Thrushes.
- Zorzalito de Bicknell (Spanish)
- Grive de Bicknell (French)
- Cool Facts
- One of the great challenges of bird migration in North America are the Catharus thrushes, which are rather shy birds of the interior forest. Gray-cheeked Thrush is arguably the plainest of the five species, lacking the warm tones of Veery, the russet tail of Hermit and (to a lesser extent) Bicknell’s, or the buffy eyering of Swainson’s. No thrush identification challenge is more difficult than distinguishing Gray-cheeked Thrush from Bicknell’s Thrush. Bicknell’s often has a reddish hint to the tail and a smaller, yellower bill, but many silent birds cannot be definitively separated from Gray-cheeked.
- Male Bicknell's Thrush wintering on Hispaniola tend to live at higher elevations than females and also eat more insects than fruit, whereas females consume more fruit. This kind of segregation in habitat use happens fairly often in birds, and may help reduce competition for food between the sexes.
- Bicknell's Thrush has an unusual mating system. Both males and females mate with different partners. Most nests contain young from different males, and males may have young in several nests. More than one male feeds young at most nests.
- Males do not hold strict territories, and several different males may sing from the same area within one hour.
- The oldest recorded Bicknell's Thrush was a male, and over 11 years, 11 months, when it was recaptured and rereleased during banding operations in Vermont.