How Bird Poop Left 5 Baby Birds Homeless

Last month, bird poop almost divided the city of Oakland, Calif. Ironically, it all started as an innocent cleanup effort.

Oakland’s United States Postal Service (USPS) hired Ernesto Pulido’s tree-trimming company to trim some of the ficus trees that are planted next to the USPS parking lot because there were too many bird droppings on the USPS trucks.

The Oakland Chainsaw Massacre

During the tree cleanup, five baby Black-crowned Night Herons — which are a federally protected species — fell from the trees and were injured. As reported in the New York Times, when one witness, Cat Callaway, who also happens to be a landscaper from the area, saw the “cherry picker, a wood chipper and newborn herons on the ground,” she felt “distraught.” She recorded the events and contacted wildlife and police authorities.

A wildlife conservationist, Lisa Owens Viani, eventually arrived on the scene where several adult herons were circling up above and “screaming in distress.” Prepared with towels and pet carriers, Viani managed to collect the herons and deliver them to a wildlife rehabilitation center for medical attention.

While all of the birds had scrapes and bruises, their conditions could’ve been a lot more grave. The most serious heron injury was a fractured mandible that required surgery. A spokesperson for the International Bird Rescue expressed that the birds were expected to make full and speedy recoveries.

Thanks to the care of the rescue teams and to Ernesto Pulido’s financial support, that’s exactly what happened. As reported in CBS San Francisco, since it would’ve been too hard to try to reunite the young birds with their original colony, on June 7, the baby birds were released back to the wild in East Bay marsh land. (It’s all-around good news for California’s wild birds since the Long Beach brown pelican has also made a full recovery and was released!)

The Talons Came Out in Oakland

Oakland itself needs to recover from the incident. While the focus of this piece has been on the birds, the story also gave us a view of the human problems in Oakland.

First, Ernesto Pulido, the owner of the tree-trimming company, was in deep boiling water over the bird injuries, especially because of the first (and untrue) reports; witnesses believed that Pulido and his crew had thrown the rare birds into the wood chipper, earning the case the “Oakland Chainsaw Massacre” moniker. Because of Pulido’s Mexican background, racist and xenophobic blog posts surely followed.

However, mean blog posts were the least of Pulido’s worries. The federal protection status of the birds meant that Pulido was under federal investigation. If convicted, Pulido was looking at up to a $15,000 fine and six months in jail. As reported in the New York Times, Pulido’s witch-hunt forced him to move his pregnant wife and daughter because of the violent threats that he received (here we go, again, with counterproductive and unnecessary threats).

Pulido’s background made him an easy scapegoat. Very few questioned why the finger of blame was never partially pointed at the USPS.

The New York Times also reported how some Oakland residents felt that the heron situation was overshadowing other pressing issues, like the city’s changing make-up and rampant gentrification. Some felt that too many cared too much about the five baby herons’ welfare and care too little about the welfare of Oakland’s substantial human homeless population.

Take Action!

Let’s hope that Oakland can rehabilitate itself after this story that started with bird poop. It wasn’t a good situation for the birds or the humans involved.  If you’d like to see that an unfortunate situation like this never happens again, then sign and share this petition to demand justice for the five baby herons and their colony.

Photo Credit: Ingrid Taylar


Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Virginia Abreu de Paula

I suggest to remove the petition as it says the birds died when in fact, they all survived. Unfortunately I only read the article later...

Jay Bauder
Jay B3 years ago


Jennifer H.
Jennifer H3 years ago

How can you trim branches from a tree and not know there are nests on the branches. I believe both parties were wrong on this one. I don't see how you can take branches from a tree and not see nests. Too many tree services want the money for the job and not worry about the tree's residents. It doesn't do any good to check nests after they hit the ground. The damage is done; the babys can be injured or killed in the fall. Not to mention the above story was written about protected birds. They not only did not check nests, but they didn't check what species it was. I do believe some sort of penalty should be paid.

Cheryl T.
Cheryl T3 years ago

Obviously if there was bird poop below there were birds in the tree above. The tree trimmers should have been more careful and checked before cutting to avoid baby birds falling from trees. Usps could have also waited til the birds left before having work done too.

Barbara D.
Past Member 3 years ago

*Pulido’s background made him an easy scapegoat. Very few questioned why the finger of blame was never partially pointed at the USPS*

Let's get the story of this accident straight. The USPS did NOT use Pulido as a scapegoat (for what? No crime was committed.)
Pulido was criminalized, made the butt of racist blogs and rhetoric, and ostracized from his own home and neighborhood.

Solely because of racist, bigoted humaniac passersby

Justice for the unharmed, now released herons??? I think there are some MUCH bigger issues that need to be addressed!.

Patricia Dehler
Patricia Dehler3 years ago

decided not to sign, as petition is unclear. The issues should be with tree people knowing what is in the trees before they chop. Don't squirrels next in trees too,etc. Trim those trees gently and make an effort to see what lives in the tree would be my advice.

Simon Tucker
Simon Tucker3 years ago

Barbara S. - are you southern hemisphere? Have I got the wrong end of the branch?

Simon Tucker
Simon Tucker3 years ago

Barbara S. - unless your bird breeding season runs from June to September then your city law is wrong. Birds in the UK start nesting in February (ravens) with the primacy being May to July.

Besides, you should prune trees when the sap isn't rising, i.e. over the late autumn, winter and early spring. A change to your city ordinance is required.

Barbara S.
Barbara S.3 years ago

I'm glad the birds all survived. We, by City Law, must have our trees trimmed by June 1st, every year. When our trimmers are here, I stand outside in the hot sun and when the limbs come down, I make sure there are no nests in them. We try to do the trimming just after most of the birds have left their nests, and before the June first deadline.