Oakland Zoo Rescues 140 Black-Crowned Night Herons from Downtown Oakland Streets

Oakland Zoo
September 27, 2022

Dr. Pudenz, Associate Veterinarian at Oakland Zoo, examining black-crowned night heron rescue at Oakland Zoo’s Veterinary Hospital; Photo Credit – Oakland Zoo

Oakland, CA – September 27, 2022… As nesting colonies of black-crowned night herons return annually to the developing and growing City of Oakland, this year, Oakland Zoo formed the official "Heron Rescue Team" (HRT) to rescue fallen fledglings from the trees in the downtown area. With two daily foot patrols, the HRT team consisted of designated Oakland Zoo staff and volunteers that helped save 140 herons during the 5-month long nesting season. This project is a collaborative effort between Oakland Zoo, International Bird Rescue, and the Golden Gate Audubon Society.


"Oakland Zoo is fully committed to preserving wildlife in our great city. 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," says Nik Dehejia, CEO of Oakland Zoo.


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 severe injury or death. 


Heron Rescue Team (HRT) members, Marisa Riordan & Noelle Dohlin, out on a patrol in Downtown Oakland. HRT wore shirts in collaboration with Oaklandish for patrols; Photo Credit – Oakland Zoo

"Golden Gate Audubon was thrilled that the Oakland Zoo resumed rescue operations this year. 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 the Golden Gate Audubon Society. 


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 birds that have recovered and are old enough to survive and fly are steadily being released into the wild into safe and local habitats, such as the Oakland Bay shoreline.

Fledgling, black-crowned night heron receiving intermediary care at Oakland Zoo; 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. Their status and pride in Oakland warranted the $50,000 spent by Oakland Zoo on this project to rescue and protect this bird.


Please visit our website here for more information on our Heron Rescue Project.

Amber Foley, Oakland Zoo Hospital Keeper, evaluating rescued, black-crowned night heron at the Oakland Zoo Veterinary Hospital; Photo Credit – Oakland Zoo

Join us live and in-person at Lake Merritt Sailboat House in Oakland for our Cocktails and Conservation event on September to hear from the Oakland Zoo Heron Rescue Team, Golden Gate Audubon, and International Bird Rescue about our Heron Rescue Project.



 Isabella Linares

Oakland Zoo


Erin Harrison

Oakland Zoo






Oakland Zoo, home to more than 850native 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.


During the fledgling season, Oakland Zoo staff walk the streets surrounding the bird rookery every day, looking for fallen and injured birds. Injured young birds are carefully captured for transport to Oakland Zoo. On their rounds, the Heron Rescue Team connects with the community about the program. Injured birds are taken to Oakland Zoo for intermediary medical evaluation and treatment. Oakland Zoo then provides transport to International Bird Rescue, a world-leading wild water bird rehabilitative care organization. The rehabilitated birds are then released into safe and appropriate local habitats, including Oakland’s Bay shoreline.