taking action for

Heron Rescue Project

The dramatic-looking Black-Crowned Night Herons are longtime residents of Oakland and can frequently be seen nesting around Lake Merritt and in the trees of downtown. They are so distinctive and beloved, they were named the official bird of Oakland in 2019. Sadly, their urban home presents challenges that require some human intervention. Oakland Zoo is committed to ensuring our special city birds get the help they require with our Heron Rescue Project and supporting partnerships.

A heron looks out from a perch on a downtown Oakland building.

Conservation Challenges

Loss of Habitat

Growing up as a Black-Crowned Night Heron is not easy. Their traditional rookery (communal nesting ground) is now surrounded by city streets, hard concrete, people and cars. When nests are built in the trees on busy Oakland streets, the fledglings (babies) of black-crowned night herons and snowy egrets, just learning how to fly, sometimes fall from their nests onto concrete and streets, often sadly resulting in injury or death.

Oakland Zoo staffers patrolling for injured herons in downtown Oakland.

Rescued heron being washed at International Bird Rescue. Photo: Isabel Luevano

Oakland Zoo is Taking Action for the Black-Crowned Night Heron

Heron Rescue Team

During fledgling season, Oakland Zoo staff walk the streets surrounding the birds' 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.

Veterinary Services

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.

Oakland Zoo Community Engagement

·      Oakland Zoo and our partners help to inform Oakland residents and business owners about the effects of living with herons.

·      Heron Rescue Project is highlighted in ZooCamp and Teen Wild Guide programming.

·      Golden Gate Bird Alliance Lake Merritt docents engage the lake community about the program.

·      San Francisco Bay Bird Alliance volunteers monitor heron rookeries downtown.

International Bird Rescue

International Bird Rescue inspires people to act toward balance with the natural world by rescuing waterbirds in crisis.

Golden Gate Bird Alliance

The Golden Gate Bird Alliance, local chapter of the National Audubon, is dedicated to preserving native birds and other wildlife in the SF Bay Area through advocacy of bird safe buildings, research, and education outreach.

Rescued herons are released back into the wild at Oakland's MLK Regional Shoreline.

Taking Action for Herons: You Can Too!

  • CALL our hotline if you see a hurt heron in Oakland: 510-703-8986.
  • FIND a perfect new home for animals. Do not release pets into Lake Merritt.
  • ENJOY a snack yourself, but do not feed birds, ducks, or other wildlife.
  • DEPOSIT your trash and recycling in bins, and even leave the area better than you found it by picking up trash/fishing line on the ground. 
  • PARTICIPATE in the Golden Gate Bird Alliance Christmas Bird Count.
  • EDUCATE: Become a Golden Gate Bird Alliance Lake Merritt Docent.

More Learning and Resources