Golden-Cheeked Warbler Count High in Central Texas

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Are your eyes deceiving you? If you’re an Erath County home owner who swears you have seen the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, you can believe your eyes! According to Texas A & M University scientists, the population of golden-cheeked warblers is higher than previously estimated.

It’s estimated that there are roughly 263,000 male warblers in Texas, whereas the population was previously thought to be between 9,000 and 54,000 birds. The Journal of Wildlife Management will publish their study later this year after a five-year review of the warbler was completed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The golden-cheeked warbler is a small bird, and the males have tell-tale yellow cheeks outlined in black. They are one of several species that were previously endangered and caused heated battles between developers and environmentalists in western Travis County in the 1990s. It’s highly uncommon to de-list species previously put on the endangered list, however, David Wolfe, Texas regional wildlife director for the Environmental Defense Fund, said that the species probably would have been excluded from the list had the numbers looked like they do today. In the past several years, only one species has been delisted in the region that includes Texas.

The new numbers may be the result of an expanded territory by A & M researchers. They expanded to 35 counties, which included land they had previously noted as unlikely for warblers. Additionally, some land was on private property and couldn’t be accessed, so this time around researchers worked to gain the approval of landowners to include their land.

Adds Michael Morrison, a professor of ecology management and one of the study’s authors,”Our study was the first one to look at the entire breeding range. Previous work had assumed “that the bird did not occur in a lot of areas in high densities. We went there and found them.”

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