Enjoy breathtaking bird watching at Lake Merritt

Spend a day connecting with nature and viewing beautiful wild birds at the wildlife sanctuary at Lake Merritt, the oldest wildlife refuge in North America.   

The refuge is one of the least expensive excursions (it's free) in the Bay Area for families, locals, national and international travelers to take part in. Upon your arrival via the 19th Street/Oakland BART Station in downtown Oakland, walk north on Broadway and turn right onto 21st Street. When you reach the lake, turn left on Harrison Street and follow the walking path around the lake, past Children's Fairyland until you reach the sanctuary (it's about a 20-minute walk). 

Need help identifing the difference between a snowy egret and a great egret? Check out a colorful list and description of birds here. And here's a visual guide to lakeside birds.

Take a stroll around the circumference of the lake (the footpath is 3.4 miles, and the sidewalk is 2.7 miles), and pause at one of five viewing stations. Colorful mallards, black-crowned night herons, American white pelicans (my favorite), and cormorants are just a few of the birds you will encounter on your visit. 

If you are intrigued to learn more about birding, the Golden Gate Audubon Society meets the fourth Wednesday of every month (9:30am). Meet at the geodesic dome cage.

You never know what breathtaking birds you will see at the refuge as every day there are different sightings depending on the time of year and time of day. Thus, a visit to this Oakland jewel by BART is a reminder that the beauty of wildlife is all around you.   

For more information on Lake Merritt and walking tours, visit the calendar of events.

Quick facts:

  • Lake Merritt Wildlife Refuge is a wildlife sanctuary and part of the Pacific Flyway for countless numbers of migratory birds.
  • On March 18, 1870, Lake Merritt Wildlife Refuge became protected under the California Wildlife Act.
  • In 1963, Lake Merritt Wildlife Refuge was registered as a National Historical Landmark

.The geodome at Lake Merritt.

Ducks floating on the water of Lake Merritt

Lake Merritt's Bird Island is actually comprised of 5 islands.

A ruddy duck


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