Oakland Zoo Patrols Downtown Oakland Streets to Save Baby Herons During Nesting Season

Oakland Zoo
April 13, 2022

Oakland, CA – April 13, 2022… Oakland Zoo’s “Heron Rescue Team” (HRT) is collaborating with International Bird Rescue and Golden Gate Audubon Society in the rescue effort for these fledgling birds, too young to fly and fallen from their nests and needing care and rehabilitation to survive. With two daily patrols in downtown Oakland, the team consists of designated Oakland Zoo staff and volunteers to help save as many birds as possible during the 6-8 week-long nesting season. These initial patrols have taken place during the early part of the fledgling season.

Black-crowned night heron rescued in 2017 by Oakland Zoo & Golden Gate Audubon Society; Photo Credit: Golden Gate Audubon Society/Isabel Luevano

Oakland is home to the largest black-crowned night-heron rookery (communal nesting ground for birds) in the Bay Area. When nests are built in the trees on busy Oakland streets, the fledglings (babies) of the black-crown night herons, just learning to fly, sometimes fall from their nests onto the concrete sidewalks or streets, often resulting in serious injury or death. So far, 151 nests have been identified this year.

The HRT brings injured birds to the Zoo for intermediary medical evaluation and treatment. The Zoo then provides transport of the birds to International Bird Rescue to complete their recovery period. Once recovered and old enough to survive and fly, the birds are released into the wild into safe and local habitats, such as the Oakland bay shoreline.

Oakland Zoo’s Heron Rescue Team members patrolling Downtown Oakland; Photo Credit: Oakland Zoo

“We are so proud to relaunch this program to help our official City of Oakland bird and are fully committed to preserving wildlife in our great city, the Bay Area, and beyond,” Nik Dehejia, CEO of Oakland Zoo.

Posting flyers in neighborhoods and distributing postcards to get residents to aid in the rescue effort, Oakland Zoo has also created an emergency hotline (510-703-8986) for local residents to help in reporting injured birds to the HRT.

The Zoo partnered with the Golden Gate Audubon Society and International Bird Rescue in previous years. During that time, the team rescued about 70 birds. The Zoo had to pause the rescue efforts in 2020 and 2021 due to pandemic-related issues that included staffing challenges.

Golden Gate Audubon is thrilled that the Oakland Zoo is resuming rescue operations. Black-crowned night herons are the official bird of Oakland, and they merit some special attention to ensure that they can continue to thrive in the city," says Glenn Phillips, Executive Director of Golden Gate Audubon.

Heron Rescue Team on patrol in Downtown Oakland;Photo Credit Oakland Zoo

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.

Please visit our website here for more information on joining the Zoo in Taking Action for Herons.


Isabella Linares

Oakland Zoo


Erin Dogan Harrison

Oakland Zoo




Oakland Zoo, home to more than 850 native and exotic animals, is managed by the Conservation Society of California (CSC), a non-profit organization leading an informed and inspired community in Taking Action for Wildlife locally and globally. With over 25 conservation partners and projects worldwide, the CSC is committed to conservation-based education and saving species and their habitats in the wild. Oakland Zoo is dedicated to the humane treatment of animals and is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the national organization that sets the highest standards for animal welfare for zoos and aquariums.


Black-crowned Night-Herons are common in wetlands across North America. True to their name, these birds do most of their feeding at night and spend much of the day hunched among leaves and branches at the water’s edge. Adults have a black crown and back with the remainder of the body white or gray, red eyes, and short yellow legs. They have pale gray wings and white underparts—black-crowned night-herons nest colonially, often with a dozen nests in a single tree. Colonies sometimes last for 50 years or more.