Black-Crowned Night Herons and Snowy Egrets

ISF Grantee

A safe haven for hundreds of birds, a century old ficus tree, across from the U.S. Postal Service in downtown Oakland, California, was a rookery tree for nesting Black-Crowned Night Herons and Snowy Egrets. Protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, they are considered climate-endangered and the Black-Crowned Night Heron is now the official bird of the city of Oakland. For years, they flourished under the canopy of this grand tree, but on a Wednesday in July, 2019 nature would send a devastating blow to these animals.

A call was received at the San Francisco Bay-Delta Center, from a distressed citizen stating the tree had split in half and partially collapsed. International Bird Rescue responded immediately. It was a heartbreaking sight. Hundreds of nesting Herons and Egrets were scattered on the ground among torn branches and leaves, along with hatchlings, nests and eggs. Together with the survey team, they immediately began searching through the downed limbs and leaves for tiny babies and taking the surviving birds into their care. Even more distressing was the birds still nesting in the remaining limbs of the tree. The effort continued for three days. International Bird Rescue staff and volunteers joined with local responders and concerned members of the general public in saving 51 Snowy Egrets, 22 Black-Crowned Night Herons and 17 eggs. Media coverage was in full force to document the rescue efforts and keep citizens informed.

ISF GranteeSurveying the damage to the tree, Oakland City Services and the U.S. Postal Service (whose property the tree was on) determined what remained of the tree would have to be removed for public safety. The process was slow, as city workers combed through the leaves and branches, removing nesting birds before they made a single cut.

The second half of the rescue effort was even more challenging. Volunteers were now faced with the daunting task of keeping these birds alive. The Rescue was already caring for 200 birds and the new hatchlings and fledglings needed to feed every 60-90 minutes all day, every day. With the help of 60 new emergency volunteers, every bird rescued was given the attention and care needed to survive. The International Bird Rescue reached out to the Ian Somerhalder Foundation and was the recipient, once again, of a medical emergency grant.

On July 20, 2019, many people from the city of Oakland and media gathered at Arrowhead Marsh at the Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline to witness and document the first release of mature birds back into the wild. They watched as the cages were opened and these majestic birds took flight. The last birds left their care the week of September 23, 2019. International Bird Rescue had this to say, “Every bird we save is a step towards balance with the natural world. The event, while tragic, also brought out the best in many people, who donated their time and/or money to support the care and rehabilitation of these orphaned animals. Thanks to organizations like the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, we are able to offer wild animals a second chance at a normal life.”

Written by Judy Paolercio

Edited by Bob Stone

The Ian Somerhalder Foundation depends on your support to provide programs like our Medical Emergency Care Grant for animals. Please consider donating today.