Third-Graders Lobby For An Oakland First: An Official City Bird

A black crowned night heron. | Photo: Jazminator/Flickr

By Cirrus Wood - Published on July 05, 2017.

Oakland has eight colleges and twelve sister cities, but The Town lacks a notable distinction: an official city bird.

If students in Park Day School’s third grade class have their way, that will soon change. In a video released via Change.org, the children launched a campaign to have the black crowned night heron declared the official city bird of Oakland. 

Park Day School students. | Photo: Park Day School

So far, the avian advocates have attracted 361 signatures.

“It’s a cool and funky bird just like Oakland, so we want it to be the official bird of Oakland,” said a student in the video.

As likely to forage in alleyways as they are to fish in Lake Merritt, the stocky wading birds are found all over the city.

Park Day School students. | Via Vimeo

“The black crowned night heron needs our help,” said a student in the video. “They moved to downtown Oakland and their babies are falling out of their trees.”

Last month, several adult birds and their nestlings died after a ficus tree collapsed on 14th StreetSocial nesters, night herons roost anywhere they're comfortable, which includes a line of trees along 12th, 13th, and 14th Streets and around the Downtown post office parking lot. 

“It’s such an important part of our school to not only be involved in the community, but be aware of what people are doing to make the world a better place,” said Jeanine Harmon, director of community outreach and service learning at Park Day School.

Harmon said the third-graders learned about birds in science class, but Cindy Margulis, executive director of the Golden Gate Audubon Society, inspired the campaign to elevate Oakland's herons.

"One of the birds she talked about was the black crowned night heron and the issues around them being displaced," said Harmon.

“[Margulis] may have mentioned that wouldn’t it be cool if these birds were the official bird of Oakland,” she added. “This casual idea that she mentioned really planted a seed with the students.”

Administrators treated the idea as an excellent opportunity in civic education and began working with the students to make it happen, bringing them to Oakland City Hall, meeting with District 1 supervisor Dan Kalb and putting a video together for Change.org.

When Oakland City Library had a competition to choose a new library card design, Park Day School pushed for Lea Zalinskis’ design featuring a black crowned night heron checking out some books. Zalinskis’ design ultimately won in the adult category.

An immature black crowned night heron. | Photo: SFbaywalk/Flickr

Even over summer break, Park Day students are still moving their campaign forward.

“One of the students had a chance encounter with Mayor Libby Schaaf recently,” Harmon said via email. “She launched right into telling her about the campaign they were leading for the black crowned night heron!"

The fact that the girl took her idea to Oakland's chief executive "gives you an idea of the level of commitment and enthusiasm these students have for this bird," said Harmon.

Oaklanders interested in joining in the student’s campaign are encouraged to sign their petition on Change.org and to contact their district representative.

About 18 hours ago

Oakland teachers break barriers with Ivy League admissions

Two Oakland teachers from Latinx backgrounds have been admitted to master's programs at Columbia University and Harvard University, and the charter school community where they've been working is singing their praises. Read More

Apr 15, 2021

Red Bay Coffee officially opens its modern public roastery and headquarters in East Oakland

Red Bay Coffee — the eco-conscious Oakland coffee roaster that will open a cafe inside the Ferry Building later this month — unveiled its new public roastery and headquarters this week at 3136 International Boulevard in Oakland. And it’s every bit as gorgeous as you can possibly imagine. Read More

Apr 09, 2021

New Latinx LGBTQ+ club Que Rico opens next week in downtown Oakland

A new nightclub catering to the LGBTQ+ Latinx community of the East Bay is debuting on Tuesday, April 13 — but for obvious reasons it's going to start out sort of low-key serving drinks and quesabirria tacos. Read More

Apr 08, 2021

Select Oakland residents gain free wi-fi through new city-sponsored program

OAKWIFI, with funding from the CARES Act, is taking steps to close the digital gap through strategic partnerships, community outreach, and by providing access to underserved communities in Oakland.  Read More