Oakland Zoo rescues 140 black-crown night herons from downtown streets

A team from the Oakland Zoo saved 140 herons from downtown. Heron Rescue Team members, Marisa Riordan and Noelle Dohlin, out on a patrol in downtown Oakland. HRT wore shirts in collaboration with Oaklandish for patrols. Photo credit: Oakland Zoo

A team from the Oakland Zoo has rescued 140 fledgling herons from downtown streets this year.

Oakland is home to the largest black-crown night heron nesting ground in the Bay Area, and nests are built in the trees above the busy downtown streets. Babies learning to fly end up severely injured or dying from falling on the pavement or getting hit. The newly founded Oakland Zoo Heron Rescue Team (HRT) is working to change that.

With two daily foot patrols, the team consists of Zoo staff and volunteers in collaboration with the International Bird Rescue and the Golden Gate Audubon Society. 

Fledgling, black-crowned night heron receiving intermediary care at Oakland Zoo. Photo credit: Oakland Zoo

The HRT brought injured birds to the Zoo for intermediary medical evaluation and treatment. The Zoo then transported birds to International Bird Rescue to complete their recovery period. 

The recovered birds that were old enough to survive were steadily being released into the wild, often at the Oakland Bay shoreline.

Due to their iconic city status, black-crown night herons were named the City of Oakland's official bird in 2019 after a two-year campaign spearheaded by third-graders at Park Day School.

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According to officials, their status warranted the $50,000 spent by the Oakland Zoo on the project.

"Oakland Zoo is fully committed to preserving wildlife in our great city," said Nik Dehejia, CEO of Oakland Zoo. "With 140 fledglings rescued, rehabilitated, and released this year alone, we hope to continue this important work and see our city’s official bird thrive in the years to come," 

Those who would like to learn more about the herons and the project to save them, can join an event at Lake Merritt Sailboat House in Oakland on Wednesday evening.