There’s nothing more relaxing than sitting by the Palace of Fine Arts on a sunny day and watching the swans gracefully floating by on the lagoon. Long a symbol of the Palace, the whooper swans draw nature lovers, birdwatchers and shutterbugs alike. A vibrant part of the Palace’s romantic setting, the swans and the lagoon are captured year round in photos of family outings, engagements, and weddings.

When creating the Palace of Fine Arts, architect Bernard Maybeck believed it would be "the water and the trees” that people would come to see. The natural scenery was integral to his design, and swans were part of his original drawings for the Palace.

But the swans aren’t the only wildlife that the lagoon supports. A remnant of an ancient tidal wetland, the lagoon is an important environmental resource in the midst of a dense urban setting.

As the closest freshwater habitat to the San Francisco Bay, the lagoon offers food and shelter to birds migrating the Pacific Flyway. Its little island provides a safe place for black-crowned night herons, ducks, and songbirds that breed and rest on its protected shores. Sea gulls fly over from the bay’s nearb y shoreline to look for tasty tidbits. And of course, it wouldn’t be a city park without pigeons!


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