The Bicknell's Thrush, a rare songbird that breeds atop mountains in the northeastern United States and winters in the Caribbean, may need to be placed on the endangered species list due to climate change, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced Tuesday.
The Daily Gazette reports the sparrow-sized brown bird, which nests at elevations over 3,000 feet in New York, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont, has one of the most limited breeding and wintering ranges of any bird in North America.
And with this year being one of the warmest on record in the Northeast, concern is growing for the well-being of the bird.
The main threat to the Thrush is climate change that's reducing its boreal mountain habitat of spruce and fir forest, said Mollie Matteson of the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD).
Matteson said widely accepted climate models show the species' coniferous breeding habitat shrinking dramatically in the Northeast over the next decade or so.
Scientists have already documented up to a 19 percent annual songbird population decline in parts of its ranges.
The Thrush also faces threats from development such as wind farms and ski areas, logging, acid rain, and mercury pollution brought by air emissions from power plants.
Scientists consider the decline of a plant or animal species to be an indication of the overall health of the natural environment.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service say they have launched a year-long review of the songbird's status after receiving a petition from the CBD.
The bird was first discovered by amateur ornithologist Eugene Bicknell on Slide Mountain in New York's Catskills in 1881, according to the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
With a total population believed to be less than 50,000 birds, it's one of the rarest American songbirds.