Scientists await decision to add songbird to endangered species list

BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Local scientists are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to put a native bird on the endangered species list.

A decision is expected to be made by the end of September.

Scientists like Mollie Matteson, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity, worry if things don't change, they'll only be able to see Bicknell's Thrush in a book.

"There's about 71,000 estimated in the U.S., which may seem kind of like a big number, but in terms of songbird population, it's really very small," said Matteson.

Matteson says a healthy songbird population can hover around 1 million birds.

So why is Bicknell's Thrush, native to the northeast region, disappearing?

"With the amount of climate change we've already had, and the shrinking we've already had in its habitat, it's basically being pushed up to the top of the mountain and once they've reached that point, there's no place else for it to go," said Matteson.

The Center for Biological Diversity is petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife to add Bicknell's Thrush to the endangered species list.

"The Bicknell's Thrush is the quintessential canary in the coal mine. What happens to the Bicknell's Thrush is going to be mirrored what happens to us eventually," said Matteson.

Bicknell's Thrush joins a long list of animals in potentially tough spots.

"Nearly 400 species in the eastern U.S. alone are waiting evaluation of their status," said Meagan Racey, a spokesperson for the northeast region of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Racey says experts put together a report on the animal in question, which Wildlife staff review and then make recommendations.

"That recommendations continues to be discussed up our internal line of leadership and ultimately it goes to the director's desk," said Racey.

In the case of the Bicknell's Thrush, both Racey and Matteson say several groups have been focused on conservation efforts for years.

But Matteson says getting the bird on the endangered species list will help address more major threats to the bird's health right now.

It's a fight she says you at home should care about.

"If we don't entrust what's happening with the Bicknell's Thrush, we won't be dealing with what's threatening us as a species," said Matteson.

The decision is expected to be made by Sept. 30.

This isn't the first time scientists with the Center for Biological Diversity took the fight to the federal level.

Scientists with the Center for Biological Diversity, in Richmond, Vermont, first petitioned to put Bicknell's Thrush on the list back in 2010.

They say the U.S. Fish and Wildlife didn't make a decision in the timeline allotted and they sued the federal agency a few years ago.

If the bird isn't added this time around, Matteson says legal action is an option.