WatchList Species Account for Golden-cheeked Warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) |
Qualifies for the list as a Red List Species
Photo: Greg Lavaty
The endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler breeds in mature juniper-oak woodland in the limestone hills and canyons of the Edwards Plateau in Texas, where it depends on the bark of the Ashe juniper for nesting material. Its very restricted breeding range is only about 135 square miles. Prime habitat consists of patches of 7,660 acres or larger.
During the winter, this species is apparently restricted to oak woodlands in Central America, from Chiapas, Mexico, through Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua.
Between 1962 and 1981 there was an estimated 25% loss of available breeding territories for the bird - the result of land clearance and habitat fragmentation, principally through conversion to ranchland, reservoirs, and housing developments. Its population was estimated at between 9,600 and 32,000 individuals in 1990.
Fragmentation compounds the impact of additional threats to the species such as cowbird parasitism, predation by introduced fire ants, browsing by overpopulated deer, and the spread of oak wilt fungus which destroys a key component of its obligate habitat.
Wildfires can harm habitat but are required to create successional growth needed by the endangered Black-capped Vireo, creating the need for a delicate balance on the part of land managers. Habitat destruction and the effect of pesticide overuse on its non-breeding grounds are potential concerns.
Outreach programs and incentives for private landowners to protect habitat could be a vital step in Golden-cheeked Warbler conservation. Control of cowbirds, deer and fire ants is also key, as in programs at Fort Hood and Kerr Wildlife Management Area. Protecting sites within this bird's prime wintering range in Central America may prove an important step to more effective conservation.