Oakland Zoo saves 140 black-crowned night herons from downtown streets

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A team from the Oakland Zoo rescued 140 downtown herons. Heron Rescue Team members Marisa Riordan and Noelle Dohlin patrol downtown Oakland. HRT wore shirts in conjunction with Oaklandish for patrols. Photo credit: Oakland Zoo

A team from the Oakland Zoo rescued 140 fledgling herons from downtown streets this year.

Oakland is home to the largest black-crowned night heron nesting site in the Bay Area, and nests are built in the trees above busy downtown streets. Babies who learn to fly end up seriously injured or die when they fall on the pavement or get hit. The new Oakland Zoo Heron Rescue Team (HRT) is working to change that.

With two daily foot patrols, the team consists of zoo staff and volunteers in conjunction with International Bird Rescue and the Golden Gate Audubon Society.

Young black-crowned night heron receiving intermediate care at the Oakland Zoo. Photo credit: Oakland Zoo

The HRT brought injured birds to the zoo for interim medical evaluation and treatment. The zoo then transported birds to International Bird Rescue to complete their recovery period.

Recovered birds that were old enough to survive were regularly released into the wild, often on the shore of Oakland Bay.

Due to their iconic city status, black-crowned night herons were named the official city bird of Oakland in 2019 after a two-year campaign by Park Day School third graders.

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Officials said their status justified the $50,000 Oakland Zoo spent on the project.

“The Oakland Zoo is fully committed to preserving our great city’s wildlife,” said Nik Dehejia, CEO of the Oakland Zoo. “With 140 baby birds rescued, rehabilitated and released this year alone, we hope to continue this important work and see our city’s official bird thrive for years to come.“,

Those who would like to know more about the herons and the project to save them, can join a event at Lake Merritt Sailboat House in Oakland on Wednesday night.

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