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Why Cemeteries Make the Best Birding Spots

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In the midst of most cities is a relatively large oasis that’s quiet and free from human activity. There’s one catch: this is where bodies are put to rest.

Sure, cemeteries might seem like eerie and somber places to go birding, but you’ll see an array of birds you wouldn’t find elsewhere. Here’s why.

An oasis for birds

Everywhere you go, there’s a cemetery lurking not too far away. The reason why cemeteries are such great birding spots has to do with the fact that these are large, open spaces with trees and grass. Except for the occasional visitor, groundskeeper, or funeral service, cemeteries are typically free from human activity.

In a place like New York City that’s surrounded by huge buildings and concrete, a large cemetery like Green-Wood Cemetery is heaven. Green-Wood Cemetery is 478 acres of grass and trees right in the middle of Brooklyn. During migration, this is the perfect place to spot warblers and other species you wouldn’t normally see in New York.

Although I’ve been talking specifically about the Green-Wood Cemetery, this description is generally true at any cemetery you go to. These lush landscapes are filled with birds looking for a little peace and solitude.

file0001701407773How to be respectful

Even though cemeteries are the perfect spot for birding, we can’t ignore the fact that this is the final resting ground of people’s mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, etc. That makes things a little tricky.

Most of these are obvious, but here are some general rules when birding in cemeteries:

  • Call beforehand to ask permission. Some cemeteries like the Mt Auburn Cemetery are more than familiar and comfortable with curious birders. Others may not have the experience with birders, so you should inquire about it beforehand.
  • Steer clear of services. If people are mourning the loss of a loved one, don’t be lurking nearby with binoculars.
  • Avoid venturing off walking paths. Some cemeteries don’t really have walking paths, but you should not walk on or over headstones.
  • Be quiet. There’s no need to use recorded bird sounds when you’re at the cemetery.
  • Only go during opening hours. Yes, it’s fun to meander through a cemetery in the early morning as the birds start coming out, but cemeteries aren’t always open. Respect the guidelines.
  • Be mindful of your surroundings. Deserted cemeteries are a great place to see birds, but there is some potential for danger. You’ll want to be considerate of other people, but you should also be wary of strangers, especially in more deserted areas.

Let us know if you ever go to the local cemetery to watch birds.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.