Find shorebirds, raptors, and other birds just minutes from San Francisco's Bay Bridge.
By Harry Fuller | Published: 4/20/2007
A pleasant surprise always awaits at Arrowhead Marsh. Despite its urban location, I face quiet water and a shoreline filled with hundreds to thousands of birds.
Consisting of more than 50 acres of restored salt marsh, Arrowhead is part of the 1,220-acre Martin Luther King Jr. Shoreline, a jewel of the East Bay Regional Park District. Narrow channels connect shallow San Leandro Bay with the broad waters of San Francisco Bay farther west. Protected from high waves but subject to strong tides, Arrowhead’s mudflats and salt marsh provide rich bird habitat, and the park service is eradicating introduced spartina plants, making the marsh even more attractive to birds.
I look for three rail species at high tide and hordes of wintering shorebirds on the mudflats at low tide. In the summer I can find 40 species, including many newborn stilts and avocets, and it’s possible to top 60 species on a fall or winter day. Almost any Pacific shorebird or raptor is possible during fall migration. — Harry Fuller
Harry Fuller is a founding member of the San Francisco Field Ornithologists and a bird guide. He also wrote about Lands End & Sutro Heights in San Francisco, California, Hotspot Near You No. 11, and Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Willows, California, No. 54.
At a Glance
Click on the coordinates below to view location:
Martin Luther King Jr. Regional Shoreline
Doolittle Dr. and Swan Way, Oakland, CA 94621
Bay, estuary, mudflats, salt marsh, grasslands, lawn, small groves of trees.
Flat. Boardwalk and trails connect with more than 20 miles of walkways and public bayshore.
Resident: Cinnamon Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, Clapper Rail, Sora, Virginia Rail, American Avocet, Black-necked Stilt, Great Blue Heron, Snowy and Great Egrets, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Western Gull, Forster’s Tern, Black Phoebe, Western Scrub-Jay, Marsh Wren, Western Meadowlark. Harrier and Caspian and Least Terns possible. Winter: Greater White-fronted Goose sporadic, ducks, Eared, Horned, Clark’s, Western, and Red-necked (rare) Grebes, occasional Common Loon, Long-billed Curlew, Willet, Short-billed Dowitcher, Red Knot possible, Black-bellied Plover, Marbled Godwit, Greater Yellowlegs, Western and Least Sandpipers, Merlin, California and Mew Gulls, Say’s Phoebe, American Pipit, Ruby-crowned Kinglet.
When to go
Fall and winter best for ducks. Rails are active in spring; high tide is best. Look for stilt and avocet chicks in June, Least Tern May through August. Rainy season is November through March.
Boardwalk, observation tower, toilets, picnic tables.
County park. Admission and parking free. Open during daylight hours. Three miles, five minutes by taxi, from airport. A-C Transit busses No. 50 and 805 stop within a mile.
Locals often bird by bicycle. Scopes are useful.