Photo: Greg W. Lasley/Vireo

Golden-cheeked Warbler

Setophaga chrysoparia

This beautiful bird is a central Texas specialty, nesting nowhere else in the world. It returns early in spring; by the end of March, males can be found singing from the tops of junipers on arid slopes in the hill country. Its total range and population are small, and recently it has faced a double threat: its habitat is disappearing as the area becomes more developed, and where it does still breed, cowbirds often lay their eggs in its nest.
Conservation status Very localized in range, now threatened by loss of habitat and by heavy parasitism of nests by cowbirds.
Family Wood Warblers
Habitat Junipers, oaks; also streamside trees. Habitat specialist during the nesting season. Breeds on hillsides and slopes in mature woods of Ashe juniper, especially brakes of junipers 10-20' tall interspersed with deciduous trees such as oak, walnut, pecan, and hackberry. In winter in the tropics, found in mountain pine-oak forests.
This beautiful bird is a central Texas specialty, nesting nowhere else in the world. It returns early in spring; by the end of March, males can be found singing from the tops of junipers on arid slopes in the hill country. Its total range and population are small, and recently it has faced a double threat: its habitat is disappearing as the area becomes more developed, and where it does still breed, cowbirds often lay their eggs in its nest.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male
  • adult female
  • fledgling
Feeding Behavior

During the breeding season, forages in the upper two-thirds of junipers and deciduous trees, apparently never on the ground. Most common method of feeding is gleaning insects in juniper foliage, hopping among the branches. Also makes short flights out to catch flying insects. Beats caterpillars on branch and removes moth wings before eating or feeding to young.


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 5. White to creamy, with flecks of brown concentrated at large end. Incubation by female only, 12 days. Young: Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 9 days after hatching. Parents split up the fledglings, each adult caring for part of brood for 4-7 weeks. 1 brood per year.


Young

Both parents feed nestlings. Young leave nest about 9 days after hatching. Parents split up the fledglings, each adult caring for part of brood for 4-7 weeks. 1 brood per year.

Diet

Almost entirely insects. Feeds on caterpillars, green lacewings, small cicadas, beetles, ants, katydids, walking sticks, deer flies, crane flies, moths, aphids, true bugs, and others; also spiders.


Nesting

Males return to breeding grounds about middle of March. Females follow about 5 days later. Both sexes faithful to site, returning to previous year's breeding territory. In courtship, male fluffs feathers, and calls; occasionally displays by facing female and spreading wings. Nest: Female chooses site, usually in fork of juniper branches, sometimes in small oak, walnut, or pecan tree. Deep, compact, open cup nest, constructed by the female, always made of bark strips from the Ashe juniper. Also can include spiderweb, lichens, mosses, leaves, and grass. Nest lined with rootlets, feathers, and hair.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

An early migrant in both spring and fall, arriving in Texas in March, departing mostly in August. Apparently migrates north and south through mountains of eastern Mexico. Single strays have reached California and Florida.

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Migration

An early migrant in both spring and fall, arriving in Texas in March, departing mostly in August. Apparently migrates north and south through mountains of eastern Mexico. Single strays have reached California and Florida.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
A buzzy zee, zoo, zeedee, zeep.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Wood Warblers Perching Birds

Golden-cheeked Warbler

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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