By Iliana A. Peña, Director of Conservation, Audubon Texas; Board member, Friends of Government Canyon
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced June 3rd, 2016 that the Golden-cheeked Warbler will remain on the Endangered Species list. The USFWS determined that a delisting petition submitted June 2015 did not present substantial enough information to warrant a delisting.
The USFWS put the warbler on the Endangered Species list in 1990 due to rampant conversion and fragmentation of its breeding habitat for urban and suburban development. Here’s why that’s serious. This bird is all-Texan. It cannot breed and raise its young anywhere else in the world except in the 33 counties that make up the Texas Hill Country. It builds its nests from the bark of mature junipers that grow in the unique and beautiful canyons and washes found at Government Canyon Natural Area and the surrounding hill country.
The USFWS reviews the warbler’s condition every five years to justify keeping it on the endangered list. In its most recent report in August 2014, the service recommended keeping the endangered classification because the bird “continues to be in danger of extinction throughout its range” due to “the ongoing widespread destruction of its habitat.”
State Natural Areas like Government Canyon are critical to saving our natural ecosystems providing key habitat for not only the Golden-cheeked Warbler but also the thousands of other plant and animal species that call this area home. Golden-cheeked Warblers can be heard and sometimes seen at Government Canyon from mid-March to July. In mid-March, golden-cheeked warblers begin arriving in central Texas from their wintering ground in Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. Their stay in Texas lasts until about the end of July, when they leave to take advantage of more abundant winter food supplies south of our border. For more information about Golden-cheeked Warbler please visit the Audubon Texas website http://tx.audubon.org/birds/priority-birds.