|Map Courtesy of Austin-American Statesman|
From the 3/16/12 article in the Austin-American Statesman by Ciara O’Rouke:
SAN MARCOS — Intent on protecting the tiny endangered songbird that nests only in Central Texas, the City of San Marcos is temporarily closing a handful of trails while the golden-cheeked warblers lay their eggs.
Included on the federal endangered species list since 1990, the birds fly into Texas in March to nest and raise their young in thickets of oaks and juniper trees that plague some Central Texans with cedar fever.
The maligned ashe juniper is among trees that have been cleared to build homes, businesses and roads. Some of the bird’s habitat has also been cleared to grow crops and grass for livestock.
With yellow cheeks and black markings over their eyes, adult warblers can grow as large as about 4 1/2 inches. Toward summer, they’ll fly south to spend the winter foraging for insects and spiders in Mexico and Central America, the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department reports.
The closed trails in the northwest sections of Spring Lake Natural Area and Purgatory Creek are scheduled to reopen on June 1.
Christopher Murray, land steward for Baker Sanctuary, a 690-acre preserve for golden-cheeked warblers in northern Travis County, said that though the warbler is found in several Texas counties — 39 by U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s count, but Murray said 25 is more likely now — the San Marcos and Austin areas are among the central spots where the birds breed.
Birds that breed there are more likely to produce fledglings, young warblers that don’t come back to the nest but are still dependent on their parents.
The warbler’s total population is hard to track, he said, and as many as 40,000 of the birds are estimated to exist, he said. An estimated 120 warblers breed at Baker Sanctuary, Murray said, with others found throughout the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, a network of land scattered throughout Travis County.
Emma Long Metropolitan Park in Austin is one hiker-friendly destination for birdwatchers, he said. “People come from different countries to see this bird,” Murray said. “This is the only place in the world you can see it nest.”
Other warbler haunts include the Balcones Canyonlands, Lower Rio Grande Valley and Santa Ana national wildlife refuges, according to U.S. Fish and Wildlife.
Contact Ciara O’Rourke at 512-392-8750