Bicknell's Thrush habitat preserved in Dominican Republic
by Nate Swick
That most cryptic of North American thrushes, the Bicknell's Thrush, is known to be exceptionally range retricted in its breeding range. It nests only in a few sites in the northeastern US and eastern Canada, generally over 3,000 feet in elevation and generally associated with red spruce stands. What is perhaps less known is that the species is equally range restricted on its wintering grounds, with 90% of the population of Bicknell's Thrushes wintering on the island of Hispanola, which consists of the two nations of Haiti and the Domincan Republic.
Haitt's native forests are famously almost completely gone except in a few protected parks, but the Dominican Republic still has about 40% of its original forests remaining, though those are constantly under threat from development and agriculture, a common and sad refrain across much of the neotropics.
Thankfully, due to the hard work of non-profits like the Dominican Environmental Consortium, there are small victories here and there:
The reserve is taking shape in a lushly overgrown former cattle ranch measuring about 1,000 acres, at the edge of a deep green forest in the Dominican Republic's rugged northeast. Conservation-minded Dominican and U.S. investors have acquired the plot as a pilot project, hoping to protect what they say is a global biodiversity hotspot that's home to dozens of threatened species.
The government sees the reserve, tentatively known as the Reserva Privada Zorzal, as a potential example, showing that such land can be put to better uses than burning down the trees to convert it to pasture, a typical approach in this Caribbean country with only about 40 percent of its forest cover left.
The land for the preserve is cobbled together from private lots, a welcome change in a nation where land trusts are not common. Hopefully, this kind of initiative, and the potential nature based economy it can spawn, will be the first of many such moves to protect this crucial wintering habitat.