OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- It's a bittersweet day for bird lovers and environmentalists in the East Bay. That's because five young birds were released into the wild Friday, two weeks after they survived a tree collapse that killed nearly two dozen members of their species.
There were eight birds in two cages waiting to be released -- three Black-crowned Night-Herons and five Snowy Egrets. One of those egrets just couldn't wait and burst out of the cage as soon as the latch was lifted, prompting laughter and a cry of "he escaped" from one of the staffers.
The herons are Oakland's official city bird. All of them were set free at Arrowhead Marsh along the Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline.
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"We did a rescue effort removing every egg and chick from that tree."
That tree was a century-old ficus weakened by wind and drought that finally split and partially collapsed near the post office at Jackson and 13th streets in downtown Oakland two weeks ago. It had become a rookery, or nesting area, for the birds.
"That first day there were 18 birds that were dead on site from the fall and the other 18 that were on the ground obviously had trauma so some of those did not make it either," according to JD Bergeron, executive director of the Fairfield-based International Bird Rescue organization.
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He says staff members and volunteers were able to rescue almost 90 eggs and hatchlings over two days, some of them severely injured. Now International Bird Rescue has to take care of them.
"It is a lot of cost to feed them, give them the right medication, heat the enclosures that they need to get well," he said.
He added, "The littlest ones, the eggs and hatchlings will be with us six to seven weeks total."
That's why International Bird Rescue is asking for donations, so that one day, dozens more of these birds can wing their way to a new life. Their website is www.bird-rescue.org. The two species are protected under the US Migratory Bird Act, which prevents people from owning or selling them.
Black-crowned Night-Herons, Snowy Egrets released into wild after surviving Oakland tree collapse