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Golden-Cheeked Warbler

The birds nest in mature oak-juniper woodland usually found in limestone canyons and hills.

Named for the male’s colorful plumage, the golden-cheeked warbler is adorned with deep black feathers along the throat, back and head, which contrast sharply with its bright yellow cheeks and black stripe through the eye. Found in just 33 counties in Central Texas, the species nests in dense, mature stands of mixed juniper-oak woodlands—trees that are rapidly disappearing due to population growth and urban development.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service added the golden-cheeked warbler to the Federal Endangered Species list in 1990, but The Nature Conservancy has worked for more than three decades to protect and manage land that provides critical warbler habitat. We hold conservation easements on private lands and participate in community-based conservation work along the Blanco, Pedernales, Frio, Nueces and Sabinal rivers in order to protect warbler breeding grounds. We have also created a number of preserves to help the species flourish.

In the mid-1990s, we established the 4,084-acre Barton Creek Habitat Preserve, southwest of the booming Austin metro area. The preserve includes 1,800 acres of prime warbler habitat and the Conservancy will restore hundreds more acres in the coming years, which will help mitigate future habitat loss across one of the fastest growing regions in the country.

Soon after establishing BCHP, we created Love Creek Preserve to protect 1,400 more acres of critical warbler habitat in the western Hill Country.

In 2009, Bexar County and the United States Army approached the Conservancy to help them address a unique challenge: Due to the rapid development of land surrounding the Army’s Camp Bullis Training Site, the 28,000-acre military installation had become an unintentional lone island of refuge for the golden-cheeked warbler. The Army was unable to expand critical medical and combat training operations, which jeopardized the readiness of soldiers at Fort Sam Houston and the future of Camp Bullis, one of Bexar County’s major employers and the top military medical training facility in the country.

To address the issue, the Conservancy entered into a cooperative agreement with the Army to protect warbler habitat off-site in exchange for mitigation credits; those credits allowed the Army to clear vegetation and develop the surrounding property. Two years later, we followed up this agreement by establishing Cibolo Bluffs Preserve, a 1,244-acreage of pristine warbler habitat 20 miles north of San Antonio.

In 2014, we strengthened our warbler protection efforts by acquiring 1,521 acres that border Cibolo Bluffs. The property creates an important link between the preserve and the Bracken Bat Cave—the largest bat colony in the world—and creates an uninterrupted expanse of nearly 5,000 protected acres.

Large-scale conservation work like this not only protects important wildlife habitat, but also benefits our entire region. By protecting the golden-cheeked warbler and the trees in which they nest, we can safeguard scenic vistas of the Hill Country, ensure the health of the Edwards Aquifer and maintain a network of green space that offers people incredible opportunities to fall in love with nature.

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