The Wood Thrush has a widespread breeding distribution across the eastern United States and southern Canada, but it has experienced strong population declines throughout much of its range. During the nonbreeding season it is restricted to a much smaller area in shrinking lowland tropical forests of southern Mexico and Central America. It has been on the Partners in Flight Watch List for over a decade and is listed as Threatened in Canada. Its hauntingly beautiful, flute-like song has made it a favorite for birders, and thus a prominent example of declining forest songbirds in North America. The Atlantic Coast and New England, where Wood Thrush are most common, have experienced some of the steepest declines.
Wood Thrush declines are linked to forest loss and fragmentation in both breeding and wintering areas. Reproductive success is impaired in small, isolated forests and fragmented landscapes where rates of nest predation and Brown-headed Cowbird parasitism are higher than in larger, more intact forested landscapes. Declining forest health, due to acid rain, deer over-browsing, and inappropriate forest management are also factors in the deterioration of Wood Thrush populations. Loss of primary forests in the tropics may force birds into secondary habitats where they may have higher winter mortality rates and lowered fitness, which could weaken their ability to migrate and breed successfully.
Primary Habitats:Breeding: Eastern Forest - deciduous and mixed forest
Wintering: Tropical Evergreen Forest
Breeding: Changing Forest Conditions, Urbanization, Energy/Resource Extraction, and Invasive Species
Wintering: Changing Forest Conditions, Tropical Deforestation, Urbanization
Population Loss Since 1970: 59%
Urgency/Half Life: 31 years
Global Conservation Status: IUCN 2016-3 Red List – Near Threatened
U.S. Conservation Status: 2016 State of North America’s Birds’ Watch List
Canadian Conservation Status: Threatened (COSEWIC 2012)
Birds of Conservation Concern: USFWS – Bird of Conservation Concern
In U.S., Private (87%); Public (13%)
|Region||Area Importance||Long-term Population Change||Half Life|
|Appalachian Mountains Joint Venture||34%||-49%||43 years|
|Atlantic Coast Joint Venture||28%||-72%||27 years|
|East Gulf Coastal Plain Joint Venture||11%||-65%||> 50 years|
|Upper Mississippi River/Great Lakes Region Joint Venture||9%||-33%||> 50 years|
|Central Hardwoods Joint Venture||7%||-30%||> 50 years|
|Canadian Southern Shield & Maritimes Region||4%||-83%||19* years|
* indicates a confidence interval of >40 years around the half-life estimate.
- International Wood Thrush Conservation Alliance
- International Wood Thrush Conservation Alliance Griffin Group (work space for biologists/conservationists)
- International Wood Thrush Conservation Alliance Facebook group
- Audubon North Carolina Wood Thrush Conservation Project
- PIF V Gulf-Caribbean Slope of Mexico and Central America Conservation Business Plan
Species Conservation Plans:
Key Species References:
Peer Reviewed Papers:
- Stanley et al. 2014. Connectivity of Wood Thrush Breeding, Wintering and Migration Sites Based on Wide-range Tracking
- Rushing, C. S., T. B. Ryder, and P. P. Marra. 2016 Quantifying drivers of population dynamics for a migratory bird thoughout the annual cycle.
- Rushing et al. 2015. Annual variation in long-distance dispersal driven by breeding and non-breeding season climatic conditions in a migratory bird.
- Rushing et al. 2014. Assessing migratory connectivity for a long-distance migratory bird using multiple intrinsic markers.
- Lambert et al. 2017. Guidelines for managing wood thrush and scarlet tanager habitat in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic regions. High Branch Conservation Services, Hartland, VT.
- Rosenberg, K.V. et al. 2003. A land manager’s guide to improving habitat for forest thrushes. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
- Olcott, S.P. et al. 2006. West Virginia Songbird Forest Management Guideliens. WVDNR, Wildlife Resources Section, Elkins, WV 44 pg.