The refuge has more than 215 bird species part or all
year. Some of the birds at the refuge include the Painted Bunting, Black-crested
Titmouse, Vermilion Flycatchers, Bushtits, Black-throated Sparrows,
LeConte's Sparrows and Canyon Towhees. Redtails and Red-shouldered Hawks
nest regularly as well as a few Cooper's Hawks. Almost half of the birds
located at the refuge are neotropical migrants that breed in the U.S.
and winter south of the border. The refuge offers some of the best bird
watching and habitat left in Texas for two endangered songbirds- the
Black-capped Vireo and the Golden-cheeked Warbler.
During the winter, the Black-capped
Vireo is found on the West Coast of Mexico. The male vireos arrive
in Texas from late March to mid-April. The male vireos set up territories
that average 2 to 4 acres. Males often return to the same area in
subsequent years. As soon as possible after she arrives, the female
chooses a mate. Together, they build a single nest that is placed
low in the vegetation and can be found in various species of oaks.
The eggs are generally laid in May. Both adults participate in the
incubation of the eggs and one of the pair is usually on the nest.
Incubation lasts 13 to 17 days. The eggs hatch over a 2-day period.
Newly fledged vireos remain near the nest. In August and sometimes
as late as September, the Black-capped Vireos migrate back to Mexico
for the winter. The Shin Oak Observation
Deck is set in the middle of excellent Black-capped Vireo habitat.
The deck is closed for a short period just as the vireos arrive to
minimize the disturbance to the birds. Check the refuge web site for
the specific dates the deck is closed each year. Once the birds settle
into nesting activities, the observation deck is reopened to visitors.
Typically, 3 to 5 territories of Black-capped Vireos are established
within earshot and viewing distance from the deck. Please check our
link section for other web sites with information on the Black-capped
Golden-cheeked Warblers winter in Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Guatemala.
They arrive in Central Texas in mid-March and stay until about the end
of July. The male warbler arrives first and establishes a territory
of 3 to 6 acres. The female arrives a few days later and quickly selects
a mate. The male warblers sing loud and defend their territories vigorously
to attract their mate. The pair remains together throughout the nesting
season. The female warbler builds the nest alone. The use of juniper
trees that are at least 20 years old and 15 feet tall are essential
to the nest building. The female pulls strips of bark from the tree
for the main element of her nest. The presence of old growth Ashe juniper
is vital to the species' survival. The female lays 3 or 4 eggs. For
approximately the next 12 days, the female warbler incubates the eggs.
The nestlings fledge at 9 days but remain near the adults for approximately
4 weeks. By the third week, the young birds are foraging for themselves
and can fly as well as the adults. The Warbler Vista visitor area has
the Cactus Rocks Trail that traverses prime Golden-cheeked Warbler
habitat. Warbler Vista is open daily from sunrise to sunset. Please
check our link section for other web sites with information on the Golden-cheeked
The Refuge facilities are described
in two current bird finding guides for Texas: Ro Wauer and Mark Elwonger's
"Birding Texas" and Ed Kutac's "Birder's Guide to Texas". The Texas
Ornithological Society and the Travis Audubon Society periodically
schedule field trips to the refuge. The Master Naturalists also offer
guided tours during festivals at the refuge.