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Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biology / Outreach

   Education and Conservation through Preservation

Tree Swallow, with nesting material in beak, perched by nestbox home on Putah Creek.

Putah Creek Nestbox Highway

The Museum of Wildlife and Fish Biololgy's Putah Creek Nestbox Highway (PCNH) is a combined research and conservation program for cavity-nesting birds, that was established in 2000 to provide breeding and overwintering habitat for these important species. Since its inception, the PCNH has provided breeding habitat for thousands of cavity nesting birds, from Ash-throated Flycatchers to Western Bluebirds, many of whom return year after year to nest along the creek. These birds serve to boost local wildlife populations, and provide valuable ecological services and public enjoyment opportunities.

This project maintains approximately 200 boxes in several trails arranged along a 20-mile stretch of lower Putah Creek. Boxes are monitored during the breeding season to assess productivity and reproductive success. In addition, color banding and ancillary surveys (point counts, transect counts, and mist-netting) track population dynamics, dispersal and survivorship and assess the effect of nest box augmentation on the avian community. Objectives include increasing breeding opportunities and population densities of cavity nesting birds while providing a framework for environmental education and research into cavity-nesting bird ecology.

Many cavity nesters have suffered significant population declines in Central Valley agricultural landscapes, largely as a result of deforestation and competition with exotic species. The PCNH involves students, landowners, and the community in conservation of cavity nesting birds through active habitat restoration and nest box monitoring. Annually we see the production of hundredes of fledglings, marking a significant contribution to the conservation of declining songbird species in the Central Valley. In particular, the PCNH has been valuable in helping to restore Western Bluebirds to Putah Creek and adjacent habitats. Analysis has shown a positive relationship between Western Bluebird population density and nestbox chick output. Future directions include a new program to promote the use of cavity nesting birds in sustainable agriculture and integrated pest management.

Our many generous sponsors and supporters include: the Lower Putah Creek Coordinating Committee, Solano County Water Agency, the UC Davis Department of Wildlife, Fish & Conservation Biology, Teichert Foundation, Davis Sunrise Rotary, Putah Creek Council, UC Davis Riparian Reserve, Center for Land-based Learning, Cities of Winters and Davis, County of Yolo, California Department of Fish & Wildlife, and numerous landowners.

To learn more about what is happening in nestboxes this season, visit our Songbird Nestbox Project Blog.

To learn how to make nestboxes for your own backyard visit our Songbird Nestboxes page.