New season of Oakland heron rescues

We’re delighted to launch a second year of rescuing young herons in downtown Oakland, together with our partners at Oakland Zoo and International Bird Rescue!
The busy streets of downtown Oakland are home to about 130 nests of Black-crowned Night-Herons and Snowy Egrets, making Oakland the largest night-heron rookery in the Bay Area.
But city streets are a dangerous place for young herons. If they fall from their nest or a branch before they can fly, there’s no understory or grassy ground to cushion their fall. They face broken bones, starvation, exposure, or injury by cars.
So last year we convened a three-way partnership to rescue fallen and injured young herons, a partnership that is now back in action for the 2017 nesting season. So far, six young birds have been rescued this spring and are in rehabilitative care at International Bird Rescue. Two of these birds are scheduled for release back into the wild later this week.

Young Black-crowned Night-Heron in care this month at Bird Rescue. Note the green and gold leg bandage. (Oakland A’s colors!) Photo by Isabel Luevano.

“Last year we learned how effective partnerships can be in protecting urban wildlife,” said Cindy Margulis, Executive Director of Golden Gate Bird Alliance.  “We’re so pleased that these three organizations are cooperating again to save the lives of young birds hatched in a less-than-ideal location.”
Trained volunteers from Golden Gate Bird Alliance check the streets surrounding the rookery daily for fallen and injured birds. Oakland Zoo staff also check the rookery each morning.
Zoo staff retrieve a fallen bird from its reported location, provide intermediary treatment, if necessary, and transport the bird to International Bird Rescue in Fairfield for long-term care. Having the Zoo’s experienced animal handlers serving as on-call rescue dispatch is a crucial component.
“We are thrilled to once again be part of this team effort to save these beautiful baby herons. The opportunity to take ‘Action for Wildlife,’ is important to us, around the world and right here in our city of Oakland,” said Amy Gotliffe, Conservation Director at Oakland Zoo.
Young night-herons in care at Bird Rescue in 2015. Photo by Cheryl Reynolds.

Once the birds are delivered to Bird Rescue, a world-leading wild waterbird rehabilitative care organization with two centers, the care provided will help them develop the full range of skills needed for survival, such as self-feeding and flight. Like last year, the rehabilitated birds will be released into safe and appropriate local habitat, including Oakland’s Bay shoreline. In August 2016 nearly two dozen Oakland birds were successfully released.
This year Bird Rescue is attaching leg bands to all the rehabilitated Oakland herons so that the young herons can be returned to their native Oakland when they are full-grown. The team is also using bandages in green and gold – Oakland A’s colors.
“Urban nesters like Black-crowned Night-Herons are in trouble ” said JD Bergeron, Executive Director of International Bird Rescue. “Their traditional nesting sites are now surrounded by busy streets and hard concrete, as well as people and cars. At Bird Rescue, we have developed a specialty in treating injured baby herons, but we rely heavily on members of the public, and partnerships like the one with Golden Gate Bird Alliance and Oakland Zoo, to help find birds in peril and to transport them to our center. We have treated more than 800 baby herons and egrets [from Oakland and the greater Bay-Delta area] in just one season!”
Along with monitoring the Oakland heron colony for fallen and injured birds, GGBA has been putting up educational posters to inform Oakland residents about the herons. A dozen GGBA volunteers have been trained to monitor the colony closely and report birds in trouble.
Adult night-heron in Oakland nest tree / Photo by Ilana DeBare

The dramatic-looking Night-Herons are longtime residents of Oakland and can frequently be seen foraging for fish, insects, and other food around Lake Merritt and on the estuary shoreline. They are so distinctive and beloved that third graders at Oakland’s Park Day School have launched an online petition to make them the official bird of Oakland. (Click here to add your name to the petition!)
In addition to Golden Gate Bird Alliance, Oakland Zoo, and Bird Rescue, local wildlife organizations WildCare and Lindsay Wildlife Experience are also assisting with heron rescue this year.
The heron rescue partnership is seeking donations to support the program this year, since costs to care for a single bird range from $600 to $1,800, depending on the condition of the bird and the level of care required. Donations can be made at: or
Click here to watch a short KGO-TV news report on our 2017 heron rescue program.

If you spot an injured heron on the ground in Oakland, call International Bird Rescue at 707.207.0380, Extension 110. Take temporary steps to protect the bird:

  • Find a medium/large-sized box and place a folded towel at the bottom.
  • Ensure there are holes in the box big enough for airflow.
  • Place the bird in the box and keep in a dark, quiet place.
  • Keep the bird warm.
  • Please don’t feed the bird.
  • Leave the bird alone; don’t handle or bother it and always keep children and pets away.

For more information, see Bird Rescue’s web page at