The golden-cheeked warbler is a small bird with a big reputation. Birdwatchers from around the world travel to the Texas Hill Country for a mere glimpse of this rare songbird. Listed as endangered in 1990, the warbler has gained fame in Austin as one of the eight endangered species protected by the first major urban habitat plan in the country—the Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan. In fact, the 1,140 acres of the Bull Creek Nature Preserve were acquired with the primary goal of protecting the warbler.
Whether admired for its own splendor or the unique landscape its listing has helped to preserve, the golden-cheeked warbler is a vital asset to both local ecology and heritage.
The golden-cheeked warbler is best known for the brilliant yellow markings on its face with a black stripe through the eye. The male, approximately four to five inches in length, has a black back, throat, and cap with a white belly. The female resembles the male warbler, but with less striking colors. In the wild, the warbler is usually recognized first by the distinct buzzy notes of its song, which can be heard in the Multimedia section. The warbler also makes a single sharp chipping note while foraging in the trees.
Diet and Habitat
Golden-cheeked warblers are insectivores, meaning they forage, or feed, almost entirely on caterpillars, spiders, beetles, and other insects found in the tree foliage. These insects are abundant in the relatively moist conditions of the wooded slopes and canyons the warbler occupies. Ashe juniper and oak species such as Spanish Oak, which both support large insect populations known as insect blooms during the warbler nesting season, are essential to successful foraging.