Bank Swallows


About Bank Swallows
The Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) has been recorded in the lowlands of California since ornithologists began to explore these areas in the mid-nineteenth century (Grinnell and Miller 1944). Newberry (1857) considered the species to be common throughout California during his era. Today, Bank Swallows are locally common only in certain restricted portions of their historic range where sandy, vertical bluffs or riverbanks are available for these colonial birds to construct their nest burrows. The Bank Swallow nests in earthen banks and bluffs, as well as sand and gravel pits.

Bank swallows utilize vertical eroding banks
The Bank Swallow is primarily a riparian species throughout its North American and Eurasian breeding range. Once locally abundant in suitable habitats, numbers have declined statewide in recent years. It is now absent as a breeding bird in southern California. A Department of Fish and Wildlife study of the statewide population of Bank Swallows in 1987 found that the current population center for the species is along the Sacramento and Feather Rivers in the Sacramento Valley. Other concentration areas include the Klamath Basin and Modoc County areas in northeastern California. Most historical records of Bank Swallow nesting colonies were from central and southern California, where populations no longer exist. During 1987, only four colonies were found south of San Francisco Bay. The Sacramento River and Feather River populations comprise about 64 percent of the colonies and 70-90% of the California population.

Recovery planning
Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) Conservation Strategy for the Sacramento River Watershed
This conservation strategy was published by the Bank Swallow Technical Advisory Committee in 2013. The strategy is based on the species needs and is intended to guide the preservation, protection, and restoration of habitat and natural river processes that support Bank Swallow populations in California. To this end, the strategy is intended to provide Click to download PDF (1.3 MB)flood management and regulatory agencies, conservation organizations, and private landowners with measurable conservation objectives for the species. Focusing on the Sacramento River and its tributaries.

This strategy describes:
the natural history and ecology of Bank Swallows
the status and trends of Bank Swallow populations
threats to Bank Swallow populations
recommendations for conservation actions to help the population recover
The Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) Conservation Strategy for the Sacramento River Watershed is available here (PDF 1.3 MB)

1992 Bank Swallow Recovery Plan
The goal of the Bank Swallow Recovery Plan (DFG 1992) is the maintenance of a self sustaining wild population. The primary objectives necessary to achieve this goal include 1). ensuring that the remaining population does not suffer further declines in either range or abundance, and 2). preservation of sufficient natural habitat to maintain a viable wild population.

Specific management strategies are presented in the Recovery Plan including an evaluation of artificial habitat and the primary management strategy consisting of protection, enhancement, and maintenance of natural habitats. Management alternatives discussed include the avoidance of impacts to natural bank habitats, a set-back levee/meander belt system, and consideration of the habitat needs of the Bank Swallow in existing habitat preserve plans for portions of the Sacramento River. Modification of current preserve plans to include habitat requirements of the Bank Swallow may be necessary. The Recovery Plan summarizes recovery accomplishments and also identifies several specific actions that must be implemented in order to achieve the goal of species recovery.

The publications is available here: 1992 Bank swallow recovery plan (PDF ~ 0.1M)

Bank Swallow Technical Advisory Committee
The Bank Swallow Technical Advisory Committee (BANS-TAC) was formed from a diverse coalition of parties in response to the continued decline of Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) populations on the Sacramento River.

Mission Statement
The Bank Swallow Technical Advisory Committee (BANS-TAC) promotes collaborative long-term conservation and recovery of the bank swallow along the Sacramento River, its tributaries, and other areas throughout California by coordinating and supporting monitoring and research, habitat restoration and management, and outreach and education.

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