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Refuge songbird may rise above endangered status

In December 2016, as a result of collaborative conservation efforts with a range of long-standing partners, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service determined the black-capped vireo had recovered and proposed removing it from the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife. To ensure the species continues to thrive if the delisting is finalized, the agency is now announcing the availability of a Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan (PDMP) for the songbird. 

Under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), once a species is delisted due to recovery, monitoring of the species for a minimum of five years is required to help ensure that the species remains stable and does not decline. Publication of the notice begins a 30-day public comment period of the PDMP. 

Thirty years ago, the future for the black-capped vireo was not very bright. The population had been negatively impacted by habitat loss and nest parasitism by brown-headed cowbirds, and only 350 birds were known to exist in a few locations. Thanks to cooperative and collaborative conservation efforts by Fish & Wildlife, the states of Oklahoma and Texas, the U.S. Army, private landowners and non-governmental organizations there are now more than 5,200 known birds and more than 14,000 estimated across their breeding range. 

Fish & Wildlife developed the draft PDMP for the black-capped vireo in collaboration with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation, Fort Hood and Fort Sill military installations and The Nature Conservancy of Texas. The draft PDMP describes the methods proposed to monitor the status of the vireo and its habitat, in cooperation with the agency's partners for a 12-year period if the vireo is delisted. The draft PDMP also provides a strategy for identifying and responding to any future population declines or habitat loss. 

The black-capped vireo is the smallest member of the vireo family occurring regularly in the United States. It breeds in Texas, Oklahoma and northern Mexico and winters exclusively in Mexico along the Pacific Coast. Sporting a namesake black cap and white face mask, black-capped vireos build intricate hanging cup nests two to four feet above the ground fastened to the branches of shrubs with strands from spider webs, and return to the same breeding site year after year. 

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