A Golden-cheeked Warbler

Golden-cheeked Warbler

Today was an exciting day. I finally got to see the Golden-cheeked Warbler, the only bird that nests only in Texas. Sadly, it is also an endangered species.

I went on one of the Two Hour Tuesday walks sponsored by the Travis County Audubon Society. Our guide, Stan, was great. Not only did he show us these birds, but by the time I left I felt I had learned enough to possibly find one on my own someday.

Walking along Turkey Creek near Emma Long Park, we heard more of them than we saw and for the most part, we only saw quick glimpses until, walking back towards the parking lot, we got some good looks, including the one I photographed, which was right above us on the trail.

I was surprised by how vocal they are, a fact that makes them surprisingly easy to find. Apparently, though, as soon as nesting activities are finished, they become very quiet and secretive and so, March and April are really the only time one might expect to find them.

It’s a bittersweet thing to see such a beautiful and unique creature while knowing that it is also an endangered species. The threats to the Golden-cheeked Warbler’s existence seem to come mainly in the form of habitat loss. It nests only in the mixed oak/juniper forests of the Texas hill country, and according to Texas Parks and Wildlife:

Golden-cheeked warblers are endangered because many tall juniper and oak woodlands have been cleared to build houses, roads, and stores. Some habitat was cleared to grow crops or grass for livestock. Other habitat areas were flooded when large lakes were built.

These little birds only nest here. They winter in Mexico and Central America, but according to All About Birds, their winter habitat is being cut down for timber. It seems they can’t catch a break.

Golden-cheeked Warbler 2

This bird was a rare treat to see and a potent reminder of the importance of conservation and doing all one can to ensure that we leave room for all the wild things with whom we share this planet.

Update: Be sure to check out I and the Bird #96 at The Birdchaser.