Golden cheeked warblers in San Cristóbal?

The Golden Cheeked Warbler (Dendroica chrysoparia) is a migratory species of particular conservation concern. In 1990 only an estimated 2,200 to 4,600 birds remained in their Texas breeding sites. There are many internet sites with information regarding the species. A quick google provides ..

http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/species/endang/animals/birds/gcw.phtml

http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Dendroica_chrysoparia.html

http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/species/gcw/

Some particularly good photographs of the bird are available from

http://www.greglasley.net/gcwarblr.html

The decline in the golden-cheeked warbler is due primarily to loss of mature Ashe juniper habitat in Texas. The expansion of the cities of Austin, San Antonio, and Waco has been reported as having an impact, which might suggest that unlike many warblers the species does not use the habitat provided by domestic gardens. This preference may also be shown in its overwintering areas. This could partially explain my frustrating failure to have ever seen this species.

I live surrounded by pine oak woodland that should be suitable over wintering habitat for the species. Both my garden and the trees and shrubs around my workplace are visited by flocks of warblers daily from September through to late March. There are two common species that are somewhat similar to the Dendroica chrysoparia. They are Townsend’s warbler, D. townsendii, an extremely common bird in the winter months, and the black throated green warbler, D. virens. The second species tends to overwinter at slightly lower altitudes and is more common in the dry forests of the central depression. The Blackburnian warbler (Dendroica fusca) is also fairly frequently seen in San Cristóbal and also has a superficial similarity to the Golden cheeked.

I have developed the habit of very carefully observing every bird I see in the hope of a definite sighting of D. chrysoparia in San Cristóbal. To date I have still not observed a single individual of D. chrysoparia after having checked many hundreds of similar looking birds. Below are some illustrations taken from Edwards’ field guide of the three species.

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I am placing pictures taken in my garden on this site in order to show the difficulties involved in obtaining a clear, definitive ID of this species. All the photographs below are of D. townsendii.

(Click on the thumbnails to see a full size picture. THESE ARE CLEARLY NOT GOLDEN CHEEKED!)

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