Dedicated to the conservation of native songbirds
through rehabilitation, release back to the wild
and public education.
Your help is urgently needed! CalTrans and
CC Myers, Inc. are killing state and federally protected Cliff Swallows under the Highway 101 Petaluma Bridge in Petaluma, Ca.
Breaking News! Monday, May 20th. A lawsuit has been filed against CA Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration for the killing of federally protected Cliff Swallows in Petaluma. Read more.
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Photo on left: Petaluma Hwy 101 Bridge taken from Petaluma Blvd. South
Photo on right: Cliff Swallows trapped in netting under bridge.
CC Myers, Inc. was contracted by CalTrans to apply netting under the Highway 101 Petaluma bridge as well as the 101 Hwy/Lakeville Hwy overcrossing to exclude swallows from nesting in the area during ground construction this summer. The netting is an inappropriate and ineffective means to exclude the swallows in this particular environment. In addition to the sloppy application of the netting by CC Myers, high winds and other elements loosen the netting. The loose netting creates intrusion points for the swallows to enter behind the netting and become trapped. The birds also alight on the loose netting and become entangled. In both instances, the swallows are left to die trapped in the netting. CC Myers has attempted to fix some of the netting application, however, swallows continue to become entrapped and die in the "fixed" areas.
Photos above taken through an 85mm Zeiss spotting scope. Photo on the left includes three dead Cliff Swallows trapped in a netted area directly adjacent to an unnetted area. Photo on the right includes one dead Cliff Swallow and one live Cliff Swallow. These birds were observed on April 11 6pm, the live bird was still clinging to life on April 12 at 5 pm. Both birds are trapped in a "fixed" section of the netting.
Approximately 50% of the potential nesting surfaces areas under the bridge have been covered with netting. Available nesting surfaces are directly adjacent to netted areas. It is impossible to net the entire bridge. There are currently six active nests and several nests under construction on the unnetted areas of the bridge. We have to ask, why is it necessary to net any of the bridge, if part of it is left unnetted?
Alternative methods, such as silicone based paint and Teflon sheeting are non-lethal effective materials to prevent swallows from nesting on the structure. These materials also will not require the long-term persistent and costly need of maintaining and repairing the net. CC Myers, Inc. has been provided information on both of these methods, yet CalTrans is talking about applying more netting even though information on their own website describes netting as an undesirable exclusion method. Unfortunately, the silicone-based paint is not a viable option at this time. It takes ideal conditions and many hours to dry. The swallows will be in the area for the next five months. The risk of the birds alighting on wet paint is inevitable. If their feathers become contaminated with the paint, they will be rendered flightless and will die. At this point, REMOVING THE NETS or applying Teflon sheeting are the only viable options that will not harm or kill the swallows and successfully exclude the swallows from designated areas of the bridge.
Cliff Swallows are state and federally protected by law, which means it is illegal to kill, harm, harass or possess these birds and it is also illegal to disturb their active nests (with chicks or eggs). The federal law is call the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and state protection is under the California Department of Fish and Wildlife code, sections 3503 and 3503.5. US Fish and Wildlife Services and California Department of Fish and Wildlife are responsible for enforcing these laws.
CalTrans and CC Myers, Inc. have been aware of the problem with their netting since March 27th. Since March 27th, they have been illegally killing protected species. When NSCC first noticed the netting had been applied to the bridge in early March, two calls to CalTrans were placed expressing concern and identifying the potential problems. CalTrans did not return any of our calls, nor has CalTrans returned any subsequent calls that have been place in the last week.
On April 10, Eric Graff of CC Myers told an observer from NSCC that they have been pulling many swallows from the nets since this problem began three weeks ago. CalTrans is claiming that only 34 birds have been killed since the start of the incident. Observers from Native Songbird Care and Conservation (NSCC) have visited the site everyday since April 7. See the documented death toll below for birds that have died in the nets installed by CC Myers. Based on our numbers and Eric Graff's statement, it is realistic to extrapolate that hundreds of legally protected Cliff Swallows have died in the netting applied by CC Myers and CalTrans. It is also likely that the dead birds have been disposed of by CC Myers, which is an additional criminal offense as the dead birds serve as evidence of the state and federal laws that have been violated.
As of April 8, Native Songbird Care & Conservation has been in contact with city, county, state and federal agencies trying to resolve this atrocity. The progress has been very slow and birds are continuing to die in the nets each day. We have received support from the media to expose this criminal ordeal. Below are links to the media attention received:
Press Democrat, April 12, 2013
Press Democrat, April 19, 2013
Petaluma Patch: http://petaluma.patch.com/articles/netting-under-bridge-killing-birds-say-local-environmentalists
KTVU News: http://m.ktvu.com/videos/news/sonoma-county-outraged-bird-lovers-angered-over/vxy92/
PETA Action Alert: http://www.peta.org/action/action-alerts/URGENT--Birds-Trapped--Dying-in-Net-Under-Bridge.aspx
Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/maggie-sergio/when-the-feds-fail-to-pro_b_3088319.html
Video of trapped live and dead Cliff Swallows taken by George Eade: http://tinyurl.com/caltransmas
Animal Legal Defense Fund files a demand letter.
North Bay Bohemian, April 24, 2013
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP?
Please help us save the lives of our Cliff Swallows. Call the following agencies and demand action. Tell them fixing the netting is not the solution. Ask that they take the netting down immediately. They have the authority and ability to do this, insist that they do so. Demand that CalTrans and CC Myers be held accountable for the needless deaths of the swallows and insist that our law enforcement agencies uphold the laws that protect these birds.
Director, District 4
Public Information Branch Chief
California Department of Transportation
Linda Clifford, CFO
916-635-9370, ext. 236
California Department of Fish and Wildlife
US Fish and Wildlife Service
National Headquarters: 703-358-1949
District Offices: 916-569-8444, 650-876-9078
Regional Office: 503-521-5300
Jared Huffman (415) 258-9657, or email
Mike Thompson (707) 542-7182, or email
Mark Levine (415) 479-4921
Gov. Jerry Brown (916) 445-2841
DEATH TOLL of CLIFF SWALLOWS KILLED by CC Myers Inc. and Cal Trans under the Petaluma Hwy 101 Bridge
NSCC has been visiting the site almost daily to document dead birds trapped in the netting. 10x42 Swarovkski binoculars and an 85mm Zeiss spotting scope are used to spot and identify the birds. A Lumix compact digital camera is used to document the dead birds.
Sunday, April 7 at 5 pm: 19 Birds (17 dead Cliff Swallows, 1 dead Barn Swallow, 1 dead European Starling)
Monday, April 8 at 12 pm: 12 New Birds - 12 dead Cliff Swallows, 1 dead bird from day before: 1 Barn Swallow
Tuesday, April 9: Did not visit the site to document birds
Wednesday, April 10 at 6pm: 15 New Birds - 14 dead Cliff Swallows, 1 live Cliff Swallow
Thursday, April 11 at 6 pm: 26 Birds - 15 new dead Cliff Swallows, 2 new live Cliff Swallows, 9 dead Cliff Swallows leftover from 4/10
Friday, April 12 at 5 pm: 17 Birds - 14 new dead Cliff Swallows, 1 new live Cliff Swallow, 2 dead Cliff Swallows leftover from 4/11
Saturday, April 13 at 6 pm: 22 Birds - 15 new dead Cliff Swallows, 1 new live Cliff Swallow, 7 dead Cliff Swallows leftover from 4/12.
Sunday, April 14 at 6 pm: 1 new live Starling
Monday, April 15: Unable to view most of Petaluma Bridge due to bomb threat.
Tuesday, April 16: 1 new Cliff Swallow, 2 new Starlings
Wednesday, April 17: 1 new Cliff Swallow, 1 Starling left over from 4/16
Thursday, April 18: 1 new live Cliff Swallow, 2 dead new Cliff Swallow, 1 new live Starling
Friday, April 19: 1 live new Pigeon, 1 dead starling leftover from 4/18
Saturday, April 20: no new birds, but dozens of completed Cliff Swallow nests.
Sunday, April 21: 1 new live House Finch, dozens of completed Cliff Swallow nests.
Monday, April 22: 1 new live Cliff Swallow, 1 new dead Cliff Swallow, 1 new live Starling