#MapMonday: Golden-cheeked Warbler

In this episode of #MapMonday - we learn more about the Golden-cheeked Warbler - an endangered migratory songbird that breeds in only 32 counties in Texas and nowhere else in the world!

Check out the map: http://dfnd.us/warblerstorymap

Click to view video transcript Lindsay: Thanks for joining us for another Map Monday!

Today we bring you the tale of a true Texan: the golden-cheeked warbler. This migratory songbird breeds only in the Texas Hill Country and nowhere else in the world - meaning every individual is born a Texan!

The species relies on a very specific habitat, using the bark of the local Ashe-juniper trees to build its nests.

Unfortunately, this is also one of the fastest-growing areas of the country for human settlements - which threaten the forests that the species relies on.

Already this year - golden-cheeked warblers have begun arriving in Texas from southern Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua and Guatemala. With each new year the 1500-mile journey becomes riskier because their breeding habitat continues to be replaced by urban development.

Recognizing these threats and the need to know more, Defenders just added to the science to ensure better-informed land management for warbler recovery. So this week we share with you some new Defenders research - hot off the press! We used the power of maps and data to understand how the quantity and quality of golden-cheeked warbler habitat has changed over time throughout its breeding range.

Past work furthered our understanding of habitat and population decline, but this analysis uses the latest and greatest data to understand range-wide patterns over the longest timeframe yet.

The results are alarming: in the past three decades, nearly half of the highest quality habitat has been lost or severely degraded by human activities. And even though only 10% of the warblers’ high-quality habitat is currently conserved, this small percentage continues to provide much needed sanctuary for the species. This leaves lots of opportunity to advocate for stronger protections for other quality habitats.

To share more about Defenders’ efforts, here is our Texas representative, Paul Sanchez-Navarro:

Paul: Thank you, Lindsay.

Yes, the updated mapping helps us make an even stronger case for warbler protection here in central Texas. We are using the information on several fronts, to bolster the continued management of existing protected areas, to influence the dialog on slowing down urban sprawl into prime woodlands, and to provide the latest maps for the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service here in Austin as they evaluate the current status of the golden-cheeked warbler.

And we’re also working to make sure people in the region understand why protecting this endangered species benefits us all.

We’re beginning to look at the relationship between healthy woodlands soil generation, carbon capture, and aquifer maintenance.

Healthy trees mean healthy springs, so ensuring prime habitat for the bird also ensures drinking water for our cities. And as a bonus, the golden-cheeked warbler breeds more singing Texans before flying south each summer.

Thank you. Back to you Lindsay.

Lindsay: Thanks Paul for all of your wonderful work on the warbler!

Join Paul and the rest of Defenders this spring in keeping a watchful eye out for our migratory feathered friends. We need to continue our work to protect these places so that they have somewhere to return to year after year. Check out the map to learn more and we’ll see you next Map Monday.

Lindsay Rosa
Vice President

As the VP of the Center for Conservation Innovation at Defenders, Lindsay leads the Center for Conservation Innovation’s science, technology, and policy teams as we work together to pioneer innovative, pragmatic conservation solutions.