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.
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.
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. Our team partners with Lucky Duck Bike Café for use as a basecamp for this work.
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 puts up educational posters to inform Oakland residents about herons.
· Heron Rescue Project is highlighted in ZooCamp and Teen Wild Guide programming.
· Golden Gate Audubon Lake Merritt docents engage the lake community about the program.
International Bird Rescue inspires people to act toward balance with the natural world by rescuing waterbirds in crisis.