PRBO Conservation Science
Quarterly Journal of PRBO Conservation Science, Number 134, Fall 2003: Habitat Restoration


Riparian Projects

Ecological Restoration
Executive Director's Column
Sacramento River Riparian
Riparian Projects
San Franciso Bay Tidal Marsh
Seabird Habitat, Año Nuevo
Seabird Nest Boxes
Dunes and Plovers, Point Reyes
Students Restore Watersheds
Focus on Restoration
Recognition for PRBO


In the eastern Sierra Nevada, PRBO is monitoring bird populations to assess three major riparian stream restoration projects in the Mono Basin and the Owens River Valley. Each of these projects relies on a passive restoration technique -the return of water (and hydrologic function) to systems that have been partially or entirely diverted for decades. PRBO's results demonstrate how effective this technique can be, as exemplified in our oldest such project, Mono Basin Stream Restoration.

Water that had been diverted to the Los Angeles Aqueduct since 1941 began returning to Mono Lake's feeder streams following record snowmelt in 1982-83 and a major state policy change in 1989 (Observer 99, Spring 1994).

PRBO has been assessing songbird population recovery on two of these streams, Rush and Lee Vining creeks, since 1998. We have:

  • Documented California's densest breeding population of Yellow Warbler, a state species of special concern;
  • Documented the return of an Eastern Sierra Nevada population of Willow Flycatcher, a state endangered species;
  • Demonstrated that the restored streams support species associated with early successional vegetation, such as Yellow Warblers, Song Sparrows, and Spotted Sandpipers, and that developing mid- and high-canopy vegetation is allowing for the recolonization of Warbling Vireos, Western Wood-Peewees, and Black-headed Grosbeaks; and
  • Documented the importance of wild rose as songbird habitat. This early successional riparian shrub is often overlooked as viable habitat and considered "weedy" despite its native species status. PRBO demonstrated Willow Flycatcher nest site preference, and higher Yellow Warbler nest success, in wild rose patches.

Sacha Heath, Project Leader, Eastern/Southern Sierra Nevada, PRBO Terrestrial Ecology Division


Since 1999, PRBO has been monitoring bird populations in the Lower Clear Creek Floodway Rehabilitation Project, near Redding, California. The project's initial focus was to improve passage and spawning habitat for salmonids, but Clear Creek has some of the best remaining riparian songbird habitat in the Sacramento Valley. PRBO's work, largely funded by CalFed, allows the restoration team to take a multi-species, ecosystem-based, adaptive management approach. Bird data has been incorporated into restoration design in order to maintain and create high-quality riparian bird habitat that benefits birds such as Yellow-breasted Chat, Yellow Warbler, and Song Sparrow.

Ryan Burnett, Northern California Project Leader, PRBO Terrestrial Ecology Division

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