The Return Visit of an Adventurous Black-crowned Night-Heron

The Black-crowned Night-Heron on his second visit to International Bird Rescue.  Photo: Marie Travers, International Bird Rescue

Each year International Bird Rescue cares for more than 150 Black-crowned Night-Herons. Many of these are fledglings that have fallen from an urban rookery above Santa Rosa’s bustling West Ninth Street. This group nests in trees above a 5 to 6 foot traffic median, and Bird Rescue is continually grateful for and impressed by the efforts of Santa Rosa citizens to block off lanes to protect fallen birds from further injury.

The young birds that survive this fall can’t climb back into the branches without underbrush to assist them. Human intervention would involve large machinery, and the subsequent panic in the rookery would lead to even more fallen chicks. The safest and most responsible alternative is to raise fallen chicks at our Wildlife Centers and release them once they mature. One such fledgling, brought in to Bird Rescue’s San Francisco Bay-Delta Wildlife Center after straying from his nest in June, was ready to live on his own a month later. He was released at Oakland’s Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline Park.

Two weeks ago, the same Black-crowned Night-Heron, identified by the numbered leg band he was given prior to his original release, was brought back to Bird Rescue. This roving Heron was found in Watsonville, roughly 85 miles away from his Oakland release site. This time he was suffering from an accident that left him with one missing toe and several broken ones.

Recovering well, it is nearly time for this bird’s second release; a volunteer will drive him back to Watsonville on Saturday. Much like Pelicans K14 and K15, spotted thriving in the wild last month, this Black-crowned Night-Heron shows that many of our avian patients go on to live adventurous lives post-treatment.