Birds of Lake Merritt

Ducks on lawn with a sign that says 'This space reserved for the ducks. Please keep out.'
A photo of ducks at Lake Merritt in 1920, by William L. Finley. Courtesy, oddly enough, of the Oregon Historical Society.

A richly illustrated birding guide to the nation's first official wildlife refuge

This book introduces us to the 15 of the ducks, herons, pelicans, geese and other species of bird that can be found on the waters of Lake Merritt in Oakland, California. The introduction tells the history of the "lake" (spoiler alert it isn't actually a lake) and how it came to be home to the first officially designated wildlife refuge in the nation.

About the Book

  • Hardcover
  • 5.5 x 8.5 inches
  • 70 pages
  • Published by Heyday Books
  • Over 15 full color paintings
  • $25 price

Also, check out Birds of Lake Merritt on Goodreads

Birds of Lake Merritt at the Oakland Public Library

Watch a recent talk about the history of the bird refuge at Lake Merritt, and the process of making Birds of Lake Merritt.

Watch the talk

Praise for Birds of Lake Merritt

“I’ve always known Lake Merritt as a great place to look for birds, not knowing that it was originally designated as a bird sanctuary over 150 years ago—the first wildlife refuge in the country! This charming book is the perfect introduction to the lake and its birds, and it’s sure to give you a new appreciation of both.”
“With brush and words, Alex Harris brings out the local color of beloved birds in the heart of Oakland. Through each bird’s backstory, we see that Lake Merritt is a meeting spot for local avian residents and international travelers alike. Alex’s bird portraits capture the life, whimsy, and identification details of fifteen common species, making this a great introduction to birds for adults and youth.”
"Just like the birds that flock to Lake Merritt every winter, I find myself returning to this book again and again. Every time I absorb these pages, I’m instantly transported to my favorite place in Oakland."
“Beautifully illustrated and written, this is a must-have for anyone who wants to better understand and appreciate our neighbors.”

Reading about the lake is great, but visiting is even better.

Perhaps the best place to start when looking at birds at Lake Merritt is the rotary nature center. Even if the center itself is not open, the pond and nearby bird islands often have many types of birds visible, no binoculars needed (but they help!). Walk in either direction and see what other kinds of birds you can spot.

Additionally, the Golden Gate Audubon Society hosts regular bird watching field trips at the lake, in case you want something with a little more structure.

a drawing of the geodesic dome at Lake Merritt
Speaking of structure, the lake is also home to the first permanent geodesic dome constructed on the west coast, still in place near the nature center.

Birds at the Lake

Many of the birds at Lake Merritt are seasonal visitors, so you may only see certain species depending on when you go. Here are the birds covered in Birds of Lake Merritt that have been seen in the last 30 days, according to eBird:

Recent Observations

Bird #

Overall, different kinds of bird have been spotted in the last 30 days. See the full list on eBird's Lake Merritt page.

Painting of an American Coot
American Coot.
Painting of an Black Crowned Night Heron
Black Crowned Night Heron.
Painting of an Double-crested Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant.
Painting of Greater Scaup
Greater Scaup.

Further Resources

About the author

Alex Harris, born and raised in Berkeley, California, is an artist interested in using art and technology to look at how humans interface with the natural world. Find more work at