National Wildlife Refuge
|24518 FM 1431
Marble Falls, TX 78654
Phone Number: 512-339-9432
|Visit the Refuge's Web Site:
|Endangered black-capped vireo in nest and golden-cheeked warbler.|
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge
"I hear him over there!" Birdwatchers exclaim in hushed whispers as a black-capped vireo pops up from the shin oak thicket. Hidden within the observation deck, the visitors gaze through binoculars at their first sighting of the rare songbird only 20 feet away.
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge offers some of the best birdwatching and habitat left in Texas for two endangered songbirds - the black-capped vireo and the golden-cheeked warbler. Less than an hour from Austin, visitors can step off the streets into the wilds of the Texas Hill Country.
Getting There . . .
Headquarters is located on FM 1431. If you are coming from the Austin area go west through Lago Vista. The office is five miles from the Lago Vista High School. If you are coming from the west, the office is one mile east of the intersection with Cow Creek Road. If you don't want to get on the 183A Toll Road and you're going north on U.S. 183 from Austin, get off at the Lakeline Mall Drive exit. Continue north on U.S. 183.
Get Google map and directions to this refuge/WMD from a specified address:
Learn More >>
As the refuge staff diligently work to restore nature's cycles to former ranchland, visitors can expect to see and enjoy more Hill Country wildlife. Crews prune oak shinnery to match the needs of the black-capped vireo. They plant oaks to establish new vireo habitats in cleared lands, and replace domestic with native grasses that will become nesting, feeding and wintering areas for a suite of birds.
Scientists now know that it's not always a good idea to put out all flames. Before settlement, lightning storms frequently sparked fires that rejuvenated both grasses and the shin oak community. Thanks to a carefully managed prescribed burning program, each year more of the refuge returns to remind us of an era when buffalo roamed across a vast tallgrass prairie. Fire, too, keeps the shin oak in the brushy, low-growing state the vireos require for nesting.
Enhancing habitat for vireos is a start, but brown-headed cowbirds can wreak havoc. Cowbirds lay their eggs in other birds' nests, which proved an excellent strategy for a traveling lifestyle following bison herds. Today, cowbirds thrive in the company of livestock and people. Combine their abundance with the struggling black-capped vireos and the result spells trouble. These endangered songbirds can't afford to raise cowbird chicks at the expense of their own. The refuge solves the dilemma by removing cowbirds from vireo nesting areas to give the endangered birds a better chance for recovery.
Wildland fire has the potential to destroy prime Golden-cheeked Warbler nesting habitat. Shaded fuel break barriers are built around some of this habitat. This technique involves cutting the lower branches of trees and removing shrubs, reducing the amount of fuel available for fire to spread and destroy the habitat.
However, prescribed fire is used to enhance low quality woodlands for future nesting habitat. There fires recycle nutrients and stimulate hardwood forests to sprout. More palatable hardwood leaves offer a source of food for insects which, in turn, provide food for both the young and adult warblers.