Warm days, bluebonnets patches, the return of paddle boarders to Lady Bird Lake — Austin, spring is here. And that means a very special Central Texan is making his way home.
The Hill Country’s Golden-cheeked warbler is the only bird who nests entirely in Texas. In honor of his homecoming, we’re telling you a little about the tiny gold-and-black resident.
Little bird, big deal
Golden-cheeked warblers nest in juniper-oak woodlands, especially those in ravines and canyons. They survive on bugs and spiders, and rely on thin strips of cedar bark to build their nests.
The birds may be small — 4.5 inches, to be exact — but they can live a surprisingly long time. The oldest known warbler was recorded as almost 11 years old, before being released back into the wild.
In addition to being highly sought after by birdwatchers, a warbler even played a guest role in the television series “Will & Grace.”
Male warblers return to Central Texas starting in late March, and typically stay until summer time before flying south for their vacation homes in Mexico and Central America.
Golden-cheeked warblers are currently on the Endangered Species List, and have been losing their habitat since the late 1800s, as trees were cleared for local development. Although the birds are small, each pair needs a nesting territory of 5-20 acres.
The largest loss has been in Travis, Williamson, and Bexar counties — no surprise there, as the Austin metro population has grown 1,500% since 1950.
Although the bird’s population has grown in recent years, it is still endangered. Here are some ways you can help them:
- Make your windows bird-safe
- Maintain old-growth junipers on your property
- Participate in Lights Out actions
- Support local conservation groups
- More tips here