golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia)
Where Listed: WHEREVER FOUND
The golden-cheeked warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia, GCWA) is a small, neo-tropical songbird weighing about 10 grams (0.34 ounces) and is about 12 centimeters (4.7 inches) long (Pulich 1976, pp. 126-128). Adult GCWA males have yellow cheeks outlined in black with a thin black line through each eye and extending backwards from the eye (Oberholser 1974, p. 750; Ridgway 1902, p. 565). Upper breast, throat, and back are black, and the lower breast and belly are white with some lateral black spotting or streaking (Oberholser 1974, pp. 750, 753; Ridgway 1902, p. 565). Wings are blackish with two white wingbars, and tail feathers are black, except the outermost tail feather on each side is white with a black shaft line (Oberholser 1974, p. 753; Ridgway 1902, p. 565). The beak, legs, and feet are black, and eyes are dark brown (Oberholser 1974, p. 753). Adult GCWA females are similar to adult males but less strikingly marked (Pulich 1976, p. 121). For example, the cheeks and center of the throat of females are yellowish, grading to pale buff or white on the abdomen (Oberholser 1974, pp. 750, 753; Ridgway 1902, p. 566). Additionally, the back is dark olive-green with thin black streaks (Oberholser 1974, p. 750; Ridgway 1902, p. 566). Sides of the throat are black with feathers tipped in white, and the flanks (sides) are covered with black streaks (Oberholser 1974, p. 753; Ridgway 1902, p. 566).
- States/US Territories in which the golden-cheeked warbler, Entire is known to or is believed to occur: Texas
- US Counties in which the golden-cheeked warbler, Entire is known to or is believed to occur: View All
- USFWS Refuges in which the golden-cheeked warbler, Entire is known to occur:
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge
- Countries in which the the golden-cheeked warbler, Entire is known to occur: El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua
|Status||Date Listed||Lead Region||Where Listed|
|05/04/1990||Southwest Region (Region 2)||Entire|
» Federal Register Documents
|Date||Title||Plan Action Status||Plan Status|
|09/30/1992||Golden-cheeked Warbler||View Implementation Progress||Final|
|Date||Citation Page||Title||Document Type|
|04/21/2006||71 FR 20714 20716||5-Year Review of 25 Southwestern Species||
|08/26/2014||Golden-cheeked warbler 5-Year Review|
» Critical Habitat
No critical habitat rules have been published for the golden-cheeked warbler.
» Conservation Plans
|SHA Plan Summaries|
|Environmental Defense, Inc. Texas Hill Country SHA|
» Life History
Nesting: Typical GCWA nesting habitat is found in tall, closed canopy, dense, mature stands of Ashe juniper mixed with trees such as Texas oak, shin oak, live oak, Lacey oak (Q. laceyi), post oak (Q. stellata), Texas ash (Fraxinus texana), cedar elm, hackberry (Celtis reticulata), bigtooth maple (Acer grandidentatum), sycamore (Platanus occidentalis), little walnut (Juglans microcarpa), and escarpment cherry (Prunus serotina) (Oberholser 1974, p. 751; Kroll 1974, pp. 20, 34; Pulich 1974, pp. 65-66, Campbell 2003, p. 1). This type of woodland generally grows in relatively moist areas such as steep-sided canyons, slopes, and adjacent uplands (Keddy-Hector et al. 1998, p. 3; Riskind and Diamond 1988, pp. 1-3; Kroll 1974, p. 34). GCWAs can also be found in drier, upland juniper-oak (i.e. Texas oak, live oak, post oak, blackjack oak (Q. merilandica)) woodlands over flat topography (Oberholser 1974, p. 751). While GCWA nesting habitat is a combination of mature Ashe juniper and hardwood trees, the composition of woody vegetation varies within suitable GCWA habitat across the range with Ashe juniper often, but not always, being the dominant species (Pulich 1974, pp. 65-66; Kroll 1974, p. 34). Mature juniper trees vary in age and growth form, depending on site factors (Kroll 1974, p. 6; Pulich 1974, p. 65). Generally, trees required for nesting habitat are at least 4.6 meters (15 feet) tall with a trunk diameter of about 15.2 centimeters (6 inches) at 0.6 meters (2 feet) above the ground (Kroll 1980, pp. 63-64). The essential element is that juniper trees have shredding bark, which happens at the base of the tree around 20 years old and at the crown around 41 years old (Kroll 1974, p. 17). Wintering: Golden-cheeked warblers winter in the mountainous regions (highlands) of southern Mexico (Chiapas) and Central America (Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua) (Oberholser 1974, p. 750; Ridgeway 1902, p. 566; Pulich 1976, p. 62; Rappole et al. 1999, pp. 768-769; Komar 2008, p. 7). GCWA wintering habitat is steep with numerous small drainages and is characterized as mature pine-oak woodland (Rappole et al. 1999, p. 765; Kroll 1980, p. 64). These woodlands consist typically of two pine species - ocote (Pinus oocarpa) and pinabete (P. maximinoi) and two groups of oaks called “encino” and “roble” (Rappole et al. 1999, p. 765; Kroll 1980, p. 64). Encino oaks have shiny narrow, elliptical, or oblong leaves (Q. sapotifolia, Q. eliptica, Q. elongata, Q. cortesii) and roble oak leaves are large and lobed (Q. segoviensis, Q. purulhana, Q. rugosa) (Rappole et al. 1999, p. 765; Kroll 1980, p. 64). GCWAs have also been documented using artificially planted pine groves and shrub, which includes brush and young shrubby trees (Vidal et al. 1994, pp. 685-686). The understory is dominated by young oaks, both encino and robles, but also includes sweetgum (Liquidambar styracilfua) (Kroll 1980, p. 64; Rappole 1996, p. 7). This type of habitat, and therefore GCWAs, are typically found at elevations between 1,300 to 1,500 meters (4,265 to 4,921 feet) (Rappole et al. 1999, p 765; Kroll 1980, p. 64). However, GCWAs have been found as low as 1,070 meters (3,510 feet) and as high as 2,350 meters (7,709 feet) (Rappole 1996, p. 7). Golden-cheeked warblers are associated with mixed species flocks, typically consisting of other warbler species, on the wintering grounds (Rappole et al. 1999, pp. 767, 769; Kroll 1980, p. 64). Usually there is just one GCWA per flock; however, as many as twelve have been observed together in one flock (Rappole et al. 1999, p. 767; Kroll 1980, p. 64). The low number of GCWAs per flock is thought to occur because of intraspecific competition, similar to the territoriality on the breeding grounds (Rappole et al. 1999, p. 768).
Golden-cheeked warblers eat only insects, including caterpillars, spiders, and beetles typically found on foliage (Pulich 1976, p. 113; Oberholser 1974, p. 751). In Texas, the birds are thought to take advantage of insect blooms, large insect populations, associated with different plants as the growing season progresses (Kroll 1974, p. 41). For example, broad-leaved trees, especially oaks, are particularly important in providing habitat for insects during the first part of the nesting season (Oberholser 1974, p. 751; Kroll 1974, p. 41; Pulich 1976, p. 113). Later in the season, GCWAs are frequently seen foraging in Ashe juniper, young live oaks and Texas (Spanish) oaks (Quercus buckleyi), and shin (scalybark) oak (Q. sinuate) brush where increases in insects have been documented (Beardmore 1994, pp. 32-33; Kroll 1974, p. 41; Wharton et al. 1996, pp. 9-10; Griscom and Sprunt 1957, p. 142). On the wintering grounds, GCWAs prefer feeding in oaks, even when the dominant tree species are pines (Thompson 1995, p. 12; Rappole 1996, p. 15).
Movement / Home Range
In the period July-August GCWAs migrate southward from Texas through the pine-oak woodlands of eastern Mexico through the Sierra Madre Oriental (Oberholser 1974, p. 750; Ridgeway 1902, p. 566; Pulich 1976, pp. 55, 58; Perrigo and Booher 1994, p. 15). The latest record of a GCWA in Texas is August 18 in Kerr County (Pulich 1976, p. 55). The earliest arrival date in Chiapas, Mexico, is August 5 (Vidal et al. 1994, p. 686; Pulich 1976, p. 57). GCWAs begin returning to Texas in late February, but have been documented in Chiapas, Mexico as late as April 13 (Vidal et al. 1994, p. 686). The earliest arrival date on the breeding grounds in Texas is March 2; however, most arrive mid-March (Pulich 1976, p. 54).
Golden-cheeked warblers breed exclusively in the mixed Ashe juniper/deciduous woodlands of the Edwards Plateau, Lampasas Cut-Plain, and Llano Uplift regions of central Texas (Pulich 1976, pp. 67-68; Oberholser 1974, p. 751; Kroll 1974, p. 45). The birds are dependent on Ashe juniper (Juniperus asheii) for fine bark strips used in nest construction (Pulich 1976, p. 86; Kroll 1980, p. 61). Although nests may be placed in various species of trees, such as juniper, live oak (Quercus fusiformis), and cedar elm (Ulmus crassifolia), all nests contain strips of Ashe juniper bark typically woven together with spider webs and lined with feathers, fine grass, or hair (Oberholser 1974, pp. 751, 753; Kroll 1974, p. 44; Pulich 1976, pp. 83, 86-87; Griscom and Sprunt 1957, p. 143). Within suitable nesting habitat, male GCWAs occupy an area, called a territory, which is vigorously defended against all other male GCWAs (Pulich 1976, p. 76; Kroll 1974, pp. 28, 43). Nesting territories are typically from 1.2 to 2.4 hectares (3 to 6 acres), depending on habitat quality. Over multiple years, site fidelity to a particular territory has been observed (Pulich 1976, pp. 77, 80, 130; Maas-Burleigh 1998, pp. 12-13; Keddy-Hector et al. 1998, p. 6). Male GCWAs can often be located through their territorial song, described as a rather hurried, buzzy “tweah-tweah-twee-sy” (Oberholser 1974, p. 752). Single, sharp “chipping” calls can frequently be heard by both male and female GCWAs (Oberholser 1974, p. 752; Pulich 1976, p. 119; Keddy-Hector 1992, pp. 2-5-2-6). The female GCWA does most of the work of nest building and incubating the eggs (Pulich 1976, p. 82; Oberholser 1974, p. 751). Nesting in the same tree for two or more years in succession has been noted (Pulich 1976, p. 82). The cup-like nest is commonly in the upper two-thirds of the available canopy foliage (typically 15 ft. or higher), neatly tucked into the fork of a vertical limb, and camouflaged to blend with the bark of the tree (Pulich 1976, pp. 85, 87-88; Oberholser 1974, pp. 751, 753; Kroll 1974, pp. 29, 45; Pulich 1976, p. 87). The male stays close by singing his distinctive song and defending his territory (Pulich 1976, pp. 82-83). During April, a single clutch of three to four eggs is laid (Pulich 1976, pp. 90, 92; Bent 1953, p. 319). GCWAs usually nest only once per season, unless a nest is lost to accident or predation (Pulich 1976, pp. 88, 95). The eggs hatch in 12 days, and both parents care for the young (Pulich 1976, p. 96; Oberholser 1974, p. 751). After the young hatch, male singing declines, although they can still be heard into June (Oberholser 1974, p. 751; Pulich 1976, pp. 52, 119). Nestlings fledge (leave the nest) eight or nine days after hatching, but remain in the vicinity of the territory for at least four weeks while being cared for by both parents (Pulich 1976, pp. 107, 110; Oberholser 1974, p. 751; Kroll 1974, p. 28). Golden-cheeked warblers have been found in patches of habitat smaller than 10 hectares (24.7 acres); however, successful reproduction doesn’t occur in patches less than 20 hectares (49.48 acres) (Arnold et al. 1996, p. 19; Butcher 2008, p. 28). Reproductive success of GCWAs has been shown to be greater in larger, unfragmented patches of habitat over smaller, fragmented patches (Maas-Burleigh 1998, p. 16; Coldren 1998, pp. 74-75). This can be a result of things like increases in predators near edges, a reduction in mate attraction as a result of a reduction in vocalization by males due to the presence of those predators, or a reduction in attracting a female due to lower suitability as a nesting site (Coldren 1998, pp. 95, 97, 102; Arnold et al. 1996, p. 25).
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