A Voice for the Sacramento River System Since 1984

Protect Sacramento River Bank Swallows

Bank Swallows

Bank swallows Nest in Vertical Eroding Banks of the Sacramento River

Project Info

Project Description

The Sacramento River Preservation Trust worked to bring awareness to the Bank Swallow (Riparia riparia) of the Sacramento River.  Currently, we work within the Bank Swallow Technical Advisory Committee to preserve and enhance Bank Swallow habitat.

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
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 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

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 ensuring that the remaining population does not suffer further declines in either range or abundance and the 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 of the 1992 Bank swallow recovery plan is available here.

Bank Swallow Technical Advisory Committee
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.

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.

The most recent BANS-TAC meeting was held on May 2nd, 2017 at the Nature Conservancy in Chico, CA. This was there agenda:

Bank Swallow TAC Meeting Agenda


Agenda Items

  1. Welcome and Introductions (All- 5 minutes)
  2. Outstanding tasks from last meeting (Irwin – 20 min)
  1. Rattlebox Removal Project (Jake Siverston- 20 min)
  2. 2017 Annual Survey (Silveira/Henderson/Martin – 20 min)
  3. GIS Viewer Tour (Irwin- 15 min)
  4. Break (10 min)
  5. Status of the Sacramento River BANS Data (Henderson – 15 min)
  1. BANS Subcommittee Updates (45 min)
  • Research – (Golet)
  • Survey and Data – (Martin)
  • Conservation Strategy – (Tsao)
  • Outreach and Education – (Ross-Merz)
  • Fundraising –  (Rogner)
  1. BANS and River Process- related news, projects, meetings, etc (Group- 10 min)
  2. Other Items (Group- 10 min)
  3. Review, Next TAC Meeting and Next Agenda (Group- 10 min)


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