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Bicknell’s Thrush to learn from expanded reserve

Just in time for fall migration, Dominican Republic conservation organization SOH Conservación has purchased 432 acres of land with financial support from American Bird Conservancy (ABC). The new acquisition will considerably expand the 35-acre Bosque de las Nubes (“Forest of the Clouds”) Reserve and act as a buffer against illegal incursions into the adjacent 277,964-acre Sierra de Bahoruco National Park. It will also expand habitat safeguards for Neotropical migrants like the vulnerable Bicknell’s Thrush and a variety of endemic species such as the endangered Hispaniolan Crossbill and the Dominican Republic’s national bird, the Palmchat.

“When most people think of the Dominican Republic, they often think of its beautiful Caribbean beaches and waters. However, the country is also home to an incredible diversity of mountainous forest habitats that are critical for many species of migratory birds that we see in North America during our summer,” said Marci Eggers, ABC’s Director of Migratory Bird Habitats in Latin America and the Caribbean. “This expansion of the Bosque de las Nubes Reserve is an important step towards creating a protected corridor for Neotropical migrants in the Dominican Republic.”

The Dominican Republic is one of the most important countries for bird conservation in the Caribbean. Its diverse habitats and warm climate shelter Neotropical migrants during the North American winter. The country also hosts more than 30 bird species found only on the island of Hispaniola, which the Dominican Republic shares with Haiti.

A Palmchat perched on a branch in the Bahoruco Mountains, Dominican Republic. Photo by Neil Bowman/Shutterstock

The Bosque de las Nubes Reserve and adjacent Sierra de Bahoruco National Park are located in the Sierra de Bahoruco BirdScape, a priority region identified by ABC and partners for the country’s migratory species. Located in the Dominican Republic’s southwest corner, this BirdScape stretches across the lush Bahoruco mountains, where broadleaf, pine, and cloud forest habitats all host diverse avian communities at different elevations. The area is critically important to the Bicknell’s Thrush, which breeds in the coniferous forests of New England and southeastern Canada, and winters primarily on Hispaniola.

Unfortunately, the Bicknell Thrush’s relatively small nonbreeding range has left it particularly vulnerable to the impacts of habitat loss on the island, and its population is declining by at least 7 percent per year. ABC has been working with partners since 2006 to reverse this trend by addressing unsustainable logging and agriculture, along with other sources of forest loss in the Dominican Republic. Actions thus far have included facilitating reforestation efforts and supporting improvements to protected area management.

Expansion of the SOH Conservación-managed Bosque de las Nubes Reserve is the latest important step in the process of ensuring adequate nonbreeding habitat for Bicknell’s Thrush. The addition brings ABC one step closer to establishing a conservation corridor that spans the entire Sierra de Bahoruco BirdScape.

Species profile: Bicknell’s Thrush 

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