Habitat use by the golden-cheeked warbler in Texas
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Understanding species-habitat relationships is fundamental to the conservation of a species. This is especially important when the species is considered endangered. The Golden-cheeked Warbler is a habitat specialist that breeds only in oak-juniper woodlands (considered a climax forest) of central Texas. The warbler was listed as endangered under the federal Endangered Species Act primarily because of habitat loss and fragmentation. Conservation measures include the preservation of existing habitat and attempts to manage and enhance areas that once supported the warbler to return to the climax oak-juniper woodlands. My objectives were (1) to quantify the vegetation structure and species composition by vegetation volume of occupied warbler habitat across the breeding range in Texas and (2) to quantify the habitat use by the warbler in categories of behavior, substrate, height, and tree species. Instantaneous, focal animal behavioral observations were collected for three breeding seasons at six sites across the range of the warbler. Warbler behavior and microhabitat use were compared to availability of vegetation volume by height class and tree species. I found that Goldencheeked Warbler habitat varied by vegetation volume, canopy height and tree species among all sites. The warbler preferred twigs and foliage and the upper two height classes of the habitat structure for all behaviors. Tree species use did not match availability at any sites. The one consistent species result was the warbler used Ashe juniper significantly less than it occurred at all sites. Other major species were used disproportionately to the species occurrence at each site. Some tree species were used more often than they occur in the habitat while others species were used less than they occur in the habitat. Preferences for height class and tree species use were not significantly influenced by vegetation volume. Some other factor not measured such as prey availability may be the cause. Because warbler habitat characteristics and use vary across the range, any efforts to manipulate vegetation to become habitat must consider regional characteristics of Golden-cheeked warbler habitat.
Newnam, John Calvin (2008). Habitat use by the golden-cheeked warbler in Texas. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from