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.

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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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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

See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.

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Songs and Calls

A buzzy zee, zoo, zeedee, zeep.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
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How Climate Change Will Reshape the Range of the Golden-cheeked Warbler

Audubon’s scientists have used 140 million bird observations and sophisticated climate models to project how climate change will affect this bird’s range in the future.

Zoom in to see how this species’s current range will shift, expand, and contract under increased global temperatures.

Climate Threats Near You

Climate threats facing the Golden-cheeked Warbler

Choose a temperature scenario below to see which threats will affect this species as warming increases. The same climate change-driven threats that put birds at risk will affect other wildlife and people, too.