Mapping Wood Thrush Habitat for Conservation

Often, we have almost too much information about priority species and the issues, threats and opportunities affecting them. Sometimes, it’s easier to wrap our heads around the information if we can see it as an image, and often maps are a great way to help us see how these things are linked together. In this blog series, the Audubon staff will use maps to highlight our work, our process of conservation priority setting, or other topics that are supported by these visuals.

Conserving the Wood Thrush

One species we are working to protect is the Wood Thrush. A priority species for our Important Bird Area, Forest work for the Atlantic Flyway, and for our Bird-Friendly Communities efforts, this species is well known and has quite a bit of data associated with it. The Wood Thrush’s distinctive voice and widespread distribution make it easy to find in most forested landscapes, and because of this, the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) data is abundant.

But the Wood Thrush is also declining over a good portion of its range. Here in North Carolina, it is declining at a rate of about 2.77% per year over the 50-year life of the BBS, and has shown an even quicker decline (3.98%) in the past decade.

Map from

We have worked with the regional GAP program for many years on developing models of habitat suitability for many of our priority species, which can help us see where our conservation efforts may have maximum impact or to locate those areas generally lacking in suitable habitats. The Wood Thrush model shows potential habitat to be pretty widespread across the state but concentrated in those areas of highest forest cover and less available in heavily urbanized areas (as we would expect).

We worked with Steve Williams at the GAP office to evaluate our Important Bird Areas (IBA) and see how much of this predicted habitat is captured by our current IBAs. In total, about 45 of our IBAs capture some predicted habitat for the Wood Thrush or about 17.5% of the total predicted for the state. Of those 45, though, 13 of those capture the lion’s share or about 12.4% or 70% of the predicted habitat in the IBA system.

If we add our priority forested blocks to existing IBA boundaries we add close to 13.75% more Wood Thrush habitat especially in three additional IBAs (Roan, Amphibolites and Plott Balsams).

We can then layer on our climate change models for Wood Thrush in North Carolina to see how those priority areas match up with these priority IBAs.

And the overlap is great! Meaning our work in these priority IBAs, through our forest stewardship efforts, helps Wood Thrush now, but also in the long term, as we adapt for climate change.

Visit the Audubon North Carolina website to learn more about our Important Bird Area program and our work to protect the Wood Thrush

How you can help, right now