Endangered Birds on Fort Hood

A golden-cheeked warbler sings while on a perch during the Natural Resource Division tour of endangered species Wednesday morning on Fort Hood. The golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo are two endangered bird species in the area.

One bird species can now roost easy.

The black-capped vireo, a small songbird that nests in the Fort Hood training area, is being removed from the list of endangered and threatened species, according to a press release from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The bird was listed in 1987 primarily due to the impacts of habitat loss and nest parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds, according to the release. Cowbirds dupe the vireos into raising cowbird chicks at the cost of the survival of their own young. In addition, during this time-period Texas had a prevalence of goats on the landscape that were browsing on shrubs and reducing the shrub cover that vireos need.

There were only about 350 birds known to exist in the late 1980s.

Conservation efforts were made by Fish and Wildlife Service, with the states of Oklahoma and Texas, the U.S. Army, private landowners and non-governmental organizations to protect and recover the vireo.

There are now more than 14,000 birds estimated across the vireo’s breeding range of Oklahoma, Texas and Mexico.

“I’m proud of our Natural Resources team for their application of sound science to demonstrate military training is compatible with the black capped vireo recovery. I also appreciate the efforts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to fully understand our training and readiness requirements, striking a balance between Fort Hood’s mission and endangered species management,” said Col. Henry Perry, Fort Hood’s garrison commander, in the release. “This delisting results from decades of collaboration between the Fish and Wildlife Service and stakeholders like Fort Hood.”

The announcement of delisting will “actually have little impact on current training at Fort Hood due to the diligent efforts over several decades by all involved — training will continue on without any restrictions,” according to Thomas Rheinlander, Fort Hood director of Public Affairs.

The listing did affect training on Fort Hood in the late 1980s after the vireo was initially listed, Rheinlander said.

To ensure black-capped vireo populations remain healthy and stable into the future, the wildlife service has developed a post delisting monitoring plan with the states of Texas and Oklahoma, Fort Hood, Fort Sill and The Nature Conservancy of Texas. The plan describes the methods to monitor the status of the vireo and its habitat, in cooperation with partners for a 12-year period and provides a strategy for identifying and responding to any future population declines or habitat loss.

Visit www.fws.gov for more information.

mpayne@kdhnews.com | 254-501-7553

Herald staff writer

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