Birds of North Carolina:
their Distribution and Abundance
Bicknell's Thrush - Catharus bicknelli
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General Comments The Bicknell's Thrush breeds in New England and the Canadian Maritime Provinces, and it winters in the Greater Antilles; so, it seems likely that numbers of them regularly migrate through North Carolina, at least the eastern half of the state. However, the global population size is low for a songbird, and considerable concern is present about its long-term future. Great care should be exercised in the field, however, in light of the very close similarity to Gray-cheeked Thrush (Catharus minimus), from which it was (controversially) split in 1995. An article discussing the status of both of these species in North Carolina is in [Chat 59:1-8 link]. Because of the near impossibility of identifying the two species, even by song or calls, the NC BRC has accepted only three modern records, all of birds caught in mist nets, measured, and banded (and one or two of them were photographed). Most of the 10 or more reports in print, or in listserves, do not contain enough information for a committee review; several with details have not been accepted. There have also been a few reports of birds calling overhead at night during migration identified as Bicknell's. Again, such reports cannot be easily confirmed.
Breeding Status Nonbreeder
NC BRC List Definitive
State Status
U.S. Status
State Rank SZ
Global Rank G4
Coastal Plain Transient. Abundance unknown, but probably rare (to possibly uncommon), in both spring and fall. One was banded at Howell Woods Environmental Learning Center (Johnston) on 5 May 2004* [Chat 69:32 link]. Two individuals were banded at Weymouth Woods Sandhills Nature Preserve (Moore) -- one on 27 Sep 2001* [Chat 67:3 link], and one on 3 Oct 2008* [Chat 73:25 link]. The first conclusive record appears to be a specimen in the U.S. National Museum, recently examined by a taxonomic expert and compared with North Carolina specimens of Gray-cheeked, taken on 12 May 1939 about 5 miles southeast of Southport. Though photos of the specimen have been taken and sent to the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences, and seen by several Committee members, no vote has been taken, and it is assumed that the specimen record is correct. Thus, there are four definite records at the present time. Several recent photographs of "Gray-cheeked" Thrushes from Roanoke Island in fall "lean" to Bicknell's; but, whether photographic documentation (of non-banded/measured birds) is possible at the present time is not known.
Piedmont No conclusive records. Probably a very rare transient. The province lies along the western edge of the apparent migratory route; thus, likely to be found mainly in the eastern part of the region.
Mountains No conclusive records. Probably accidental or casual, as the mountains appear to lie west of the migration route.
Finding Tips Though not likely extremely rare in the Coastal Plain in migration, conclusively identifying one would likely require a mist net and detailed measurements and photographs.
1/2 *
Attribution LeGrand[2018-02-01], LeGrand[2015-01-29], LeGrand[2013-12-12]
NC Map
Map depicts all counties with a report (transient or resident) for the species.
Click on county for list of all known species.
NA Maps
(source NatureServe)

View NatureServe distribution maps for Catharus bicknelli