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Golden Cheeked WarblerFound only in 13 counties during summer in the Texas Hill Country
Golden-cheeked Warbler - Setophaga chrysoparia|
former Dendroica chrysoparia
It is a small bird, about 5 inches long with a wingspan of 8 inches. Male and female have whitish bellies with black streaks on the flanks.
Golden-cheeked Warblers nest only in central Texas mixed Ashe-juniper and oak woodlands in ravines and canyons.
Warblers eat insects and spiders found on the leaves and bark of oaks and other trees.
Male Golden-cheeks arriving in mid-March will set up a territory from 4 to 8 acres which the male will defend vigorously through song against all other males of the species.
The female alone builds the nest. She uses long strips of cedar bark and spider webs to build a nest.
Migration: Golden cheeked Warblers come to Texas in March to nest and raise their young, and leave end of August to spend the winter in Mexico and Central America.
Loss and/or fragmentation of habitat is the number one cause for species declines in Texas. Golden-cheeked Warblers are endangered because many tall juniper and oak, cherry 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.
GCW's need mature junipers = "Texas cedar" to peel fine bark strips the material they need to build their nest. During April, a single clutch of three to four eggs is laid. The eggs hatch in 12 days, and both parents care for the young. Golden cheeked Warblers usually nest only once per season. Male warblers can be located through their territorial song, described as a rather hurried, buzzy “tweah-tweah-twee-sy”, last note mostly very high pitch.
Golden-cheeks have a number of natural enemies. Scrub jays and especially Blue Jays have been seen as egg and nestling predators. Other common predators include rat snakes, Virginia opossum, Fox squirrel, great-tailed grackles and possibly ring-tailed cats.
Fire ants do also decimate GCW - they can eat hatchlings, cause adults to desert the nest by stinging the brood patch of the female while she is sitting on the eggs, and probably by reducing the invertebrate prey base.
One of the biggest natural enemies to the warbler is the brood parasite, the Brown-headed Cowbird. Cowbirds search out nests of other species and lay their eggs for the host species to bring up. They will wait for the female of the host to lay her first egg. When the potential host has left to forage, the female cowbird will remove the egg and lay one of her own. Cowbird eggs tend to hatch one or two days earlier than the warbler eggs. This gives the baby cowbird a big jump on the baby warbler in both size and noisiness.
Probably the most serious threat facing the Golden-cheeked Warbler are humans.
GCW's have a highly restricted breeding range and the habitat loss / fragmentation due to urbanization and clearing reduces the areas where this bird can raise their young ones.
Over grazing by cattle, over-browsing by white-tailed deer, goats, and exotics non native contributes to habitat degradation by reducing the survival of seedling oaks and other deciduous trees, which are a vital component of warbler habitat.
A significant decline in population is the result. Recent losses have occurred especially in Bandera, Bexar, Kerr, Travis, and Williamson counties due to rapid subdivision development, urbanization, reservoir construction and flood control
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