Wayward West Coast Bird Appears in Cibolo Causing Birders to Flock to Area

By Jenny Webster Jurica

Warbler Woods, a private bird and wildlife refuge and preserve in Cibolo is getting lots of attention lately. In mid-December, an unassuming birder was watching the birds when he noticed a bird he’d never seen before. Birdwatcher, Joe Williams told Spectrum News in San Antonio, “I was having trouble identifying it because my bird book says it doesn’t belong in Texas,” Williams said. Turns out, the West Coast bird is golden-crowned sparrow–a native of the Pacific Coast region of the United States–who rarely shows up in Texas.

A Rare Visitor To Texas

Wayward West Coast Bird Appears in Cibolo Causing Birders to Flock to Area
Photo: Flickr/Rick Leche–Photography 

Williams listed the bird sighting on the bird-watching website, eBird which triggered the rare bird report. “The next morning between 7 and 8 a.m., we had 30 people arrive from my posting the night before,” Warbler Woods owner Susan Schaezler told Spectrum News.

When asked how often this bird visits Texas, Schaezler said, “If you go into the records you can find out. It’s only been seen like 30 times in all of history in Texas.”

Schaezler isn’t sure how the bird ended up here. “This one I can’t figure out. Sometimes with hurricanes you can get vagrants showing up because of the wind patterns, but there’s no reason for this one to do this. This is very unusual,” said Schaezler.

Golden-Crowned Sparrow Native of the Pacific Coast

Wayward West Coast Bird Appears in Cibolo Causing Birders to Flock to Area
Photo: Flickr/Mick Thompson 

According to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, the large, handsome golden-crowned sparrow is a common bird of weedy or shrubby lowlands and city edges in winter along the Pacific coast. Though it’s familiar to many during winter, golden-crowned sparrows vanish for the summer into tundra and shrublands from British Columbia to Alaska, where little is known of its breeding habits. Gold-rush miners took cold comfort from this bird’s melancholy song, which seems to reflect the bleak beauty of its surroundings.

Warbler Woods covers 124 acres of varied habitat covering Pecan Gap sediments with gently rolling topography. They are located in Cibolo, near the convergence of three Ecological Regions: South Texas Plains, Blackland Prairie and Edwards Plateau. They are also near the Post Oak Savannah region and are about four miles down dip from the Balcones Escarpment, at the northwest corner of Guadalupe County. Visitors are welcomed, with prior approval. To arrange a visit to Warbler Woods, read their visitor instructions on their website.