FAIRFIELD, Calif. (KTVU) - The first heron from a big rescue operation was set free Saturday.
Almost 100 young birds ran into trouble earlier this month when their nests were destroyed in a tree collapse.
Now they're getting continuous care at the non-profit International Bird Rescue in Fairfield.
"So they're living in this little incubator," said Wildlife Center Manager Isabel Luevano, showing KTVU some tiny hatchlings.
"Eat, sleep and poop, that's all they do!"
In total, 89 birds and eggs ended up in the rehabilitation hospital when an old ficus tree in downtown Oakland split in half ten days ago.
Part of the tree fell and what was left standing had to be chopped down because it was unstable.
It was a longtime rookery for black-crowned night herons and snowy egrets, birds that are commonly seen in the Bay Area's estuaries, creeks, and wetlands.
"They have got to be missing their mom and dad and their normal view, green leaves, and blue skies," said Luevano, "And their parents are probably wondering what happened, and where their home and babies went.”
Rescuers wouldn't normally remove offspring from their parents, but this time, with the bird colony destroyed, they had no choice.
"Just the stress of falling from that tree, being in stranger's hands and then cars and coming all the way here," recounted Luevano, "For them to be successful here, is great."
But the influx of so many needy birds came as the facility was already full, nursing 200 other aquatic birds back to health.
"We had to call in all volunteers, and move birds around," said Luevano, "And we squeezed them together, which probably made them feel safer, but we had to find the space."
Now they are fed constantly and monitored to make sure they're healthy and growing.
An egg incubator holds the eggs that survived the fall and will get the chance to hatch.
"We check three times a day for cracks that show they're coming," said Luevano.
The rescued birds are all ages, but none can be released until about six weeks old when they have the strength and feather growth to fly.
As a protected species, the goal is to get all of them back to the wild, and the rescue center welcomes any public support.
"Any dollar amount, any hands-on experience with volunteering, it takes a village to care of all these babies, so every bit helps," said Luevano.
An orientation for new volunteers this weekend has about fifty people registered, many motivated by the birds' plight and interested in learning about wildlife rehabilitation.
The first bird released, and others that follow will wear identifying bands in case they ever end up back at the hospital.
Donations to help care for the chicks can be made at www.bird-rescue.org.