The prime habitat of the golden-cheeked warbler during breeding season is tall, dense, mature stands of Ashe juniper mixed with species of oak such as Spanish oak, live oak, and shin oak. The juniper trees preferred by the warbler are generally over twenty years old and fifteen feet tall, since these trees have shredding bark that can be used for nests. This type of mixed woodland, known as oak-juniper habitat, typically grows in mesic, or relatively moist, areas such as steep-sided canyons and slopes. One of the biggest threats to golden-cheeked warblers in Central Texas is habitat loss and fragmentation due to urban encroachment.
Of the nearly 360 birds that breed in Texas, the golden-cheeked warbler is the only one that nests exclusively in Texas. The warbler’s entire nesting range is located in about 33 counties along the Edwards Plateau. Travis County, home to the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, contains the greatest amount of warbler habitat in large, undisturbed tracts. The warblers arrive in the Texas Hill Country in mid March. From late June to mid August, the warblers migrate to their wintering grounds in Central America.
The golden-cheeked warbler was actually first discovered when it was collected in Guatemala in 1859 by a British ornithologist. The pine-oak forests of Guatemala, along with Honduras, Nicaragua, and the Chiapas region of southern Mexico, make up the winter home of the warbler.
In Central America the warbler faces similar threats of habitat destruction as forests are cleared for agriculture and human settlement.