Saturday started off as a fairly normal day. I woke up, drove my son to his grandparents’ house for a sleepover, and headed home to get ready for a wedding. But when I arrived home in East Oakland, my house was surrounded by some very unexpected visitors: a team of zookeepers and Deauville, the bird. 

Last Tuesday, Bay Area storms hit the Oakland Zoo hard after a tree fell on an aviary, releasing six birds from the African Savanna habitat. By Friday, all but two birds returned or were rescued. Two pied crows—an African bird species with distinctive black and white plumage—were still missing until an Oakland resident spotted one on Saturday.

A tree falls on the Hillside Aviary at the Oakland Zoo during a storm on Tuesday, March 21, damaging the netted aviary and leading to six birds escaping. Courtesy of Oakland Zoo

Melissa Bolger, an Oakland resident of 25 years and my next-door neighbor, was used to seeing crows in the area. But that day, she saw something different. 

“I knew it was special because it had white on it,” Bolger said. “I had never seen that before.” 

Melissa Bolger, Oakland resident who located Deauville, attempts to draw Deauville into a kennel with blueberries and dried mealworms while waiting for Oakland zookeepers to arrive. Courtesy of Melissa Bolger

Bolger noticed the bird’s leg band and called the Oakland Zoo. 

The bird Bolger found was Deauville, the Oakland Zoo’s female pied crow that escaped last week. Before the zoo, Deauville was a show bird. She was born under human care and never lived in the wild. On Saturday, Bolger said Deauville was being chased by other birds, came down for cover, and approached her for food. 

Approximately an hour later, Oakland Zoo staff Madison Brandon, supervising primary keeper, Aeriell Bohen, primary keeper, and Colleen Kinzley, vice president of animal care, conservation and research, arrived with nets, a kennel and live worms. 

Madison Brandon, left, and Aeriell Bohen patiently watch as Deauville is perched in a tree above Florence Middleton’s home in East Oakland on March 25, 2023. Credit: Florence Middleton
After a failed attempt to lure Deauville into the house, Deauville perches in an oak tree in Florence Middleton’s yard in East Oakland on March 25, 2023. Credit: Florence Middleton
Aeriell Bohen, left, and Gerry Serpa, the son of Melissa Bolger who reported Deauville’s location to the Oakland Zoo, wait for Deauville to come down from a tree in East Oakland on March 25, 2023. Credit: Florence Middleton

When the team arrived, Deauville had left the Bolger house and was enjoying a puddle in front of my yard.

“When Aeriell and I got out of the car, [Deauville] got really excited to see us and just hopped right over to us,” Brandon said. 

That’s when I arrived. The zookeepers were sitting on the sidewalk in front of my house just inches away from Deauville. But Deauville would not get into their kennel. 

Aeriell Bohen, left, and Madison Brandon patiently wait near Deauville, a pied crow that escaped the Oakland Zoo last Tuesday, as they attempt to convince the bird to enter their kennel on March 25, 2023 in East Oakland. Credit: Florence Middleton
Treats the Oakland zookeepers use to attempt to draw Deauville into a kennel to return the bird back to the Oakland Zoo on March 25, 2023. Credit: Florence Middleton

I was watching the rescue efforts from my porch when Brandon approached me with a question: “Hey, this is a big ask, but will you open your house and can I throw bugs into it?”

For two hours, Brandon, Bohen, and Kinzley patiently followed Deauville as she skirted around their kennel and explored my yard and trees. They used a trail of live mealworms and Bohen’s encouraging words to lure Deauville to my open front door. With her feet on my tile porch, she looked in, assessed my messy living room, and finally, hopped across the threshold. Bohen quickly shut the door behind her. 

“My initial feeling was just pure relief,” Brandon said, thinking of the risks Deauville faced in the wild. 

Deauville, the female pied crow that escaped from the Oakland Zoo after her aviary was damaged during a storm, enters the home of Florence Middleton as part of zookeepers’ plan to rescue the bird and bring her back to the zoo. Aeriell Bohen closes the door behind Deauville, as Madison Brandon records the rescue. After Bohen secures the bird inside, Brandon doubles over with a sign of relief, forgetting momentarily that they are recording. Courtesy of Madison Brandon

Aeriell Bohen crouches down in the living room of Oakland resident and journalist, Florence Middleton, as she attempts to bring Deauville into the home so that the zookeepers can catch the bird without risking her flying away on March 25, 2023. Credit: Florence Middleton

Once inside, the zookeepers used their nets to secure Deauville, and they brought her back to the zoo where she received a medical examination. She is healthy and is now in the company of birds she knows.

Deauville, the female pied crow that escaped from the Oakland Zoo after her aviary was damaged during a storm, on a sidewalk in East Oakland on March 25, 2023. Courtesy of Aeriell Bohen

“Don’t tell the other birds,” said Brandon, “but she’s one of my favorites.”

But Deauville’s mating partner, Diego, is still lost. Deauville and Diego are the Oakland Zoo’s only pied crows. 

Brandon asked the public to be on the lookout for Diego who can be identified by his white “sweater vest”—just like Deauville’s. But unlike Deauville, Diego is unlikely to respond well to people. 

“Diego is going to be the most challenging of our birds to recover because he’s probably one of the shyest birds I’ve ever worked with. He doesn’t even really like to be looked at,” said Brandon.

If spotted, the zoo asks the public to not engage with Diego and to immediately notify them. 

“I still have so much hope that our community will be able to come together and help locate Diego,” said Brandon.

To report information on Diego’s location, contact the Oakland Zoo’s Heron Hotline which was activated to help bring Diego home at (510) 703 – 8986.

Florence Middleton is a visual journalist based in Oakland, California. She joined The Oaklandside as a photojournalist intern through a partnership with UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Journalism, where she is pursuing a master’s degree. Florence’s work focuses on themes of community, women, and culture, and she has covered stories both locally and globally. Florence is the recipient of the 2023 Pulitzer Center Reporting Fellowship and the 2023 Dorothea Lange Fellowship honorable mention.