At our Doorstep

With the lake’s urban creeks and tidal wetlands, Lake Merritt is the home of hundreds of species of native birds. Throughout the year residents can take an up-close look at the exotic migratory birds that stop to rest at the lake during their annual travels.

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An important stop on the Pacific Flyway, Lake Merritt is home the exotic black-crowned night heron, Canadian geese, ruddy ducks, snowy egrets, buffleheads, great blue herons and more.  Proclaimed as America’s first wildlife sanctuary in 1869, this tidal estuary is also an important stop over for thousands of unique migratory birds every year.   

Residents and friends can get an “up close and personal” experience of the birds of Lake Merritt at the special viewing dome near the Nature Center. The spectacular night herons are quite tame and allow admirers to gain an easy view of their startling bright orange eyes and dramatic black caps.  Bright white snowy egrets fish right at the lake’s edge, within feet of the walking paths. Ocean-going cormorants sail into Lake Merritt to rest on the floating booms on the West end of the lake.  You’ll see them with their wings outstretched, drying their feathers.  During the fall migration, path walkers will see a vast variety of ducks and geese that enjoy making a migratory stop to rest and refresh on the lake’s sheltered waters.  In fact, because to some birds it can be a breeding destination, there are artificial islands that have been created to help bird populations grow and thrive. 

For an in-depth experience of birds on the lake, join a free tour conducted by volunteers from the Golden Gate Audubon Society.  Check their website for dates when the club’s expert birders lead walking field trips around the lake.

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