Birding at Mount Auburn

December 12, 2011

LeslieMount Auburn has long been a favorite destination for naturalists including prominent ornithologists, William Brewster (1851-1919) and Ludlow Griscom (1890-1959).  Although some birds can be seen year round at Mount Auburn, hundreds of birdwatchers descend on the Cemetery in the spring to witness the migration of flycatchers, thrushes, vireos, tanagers, orioles, and warblers.

Mount Auburn’s attraction as a stopover for birds migrating north was best described by Ludlow Griscom, “It appears, as a green oasis in a vast desert…” (The desert of course being the largely industrial and urban area of Boston and Cambridge).   As far back as 1870, Mount Auburn’s trustees sought to encourage and protect birds within the Cemetery by introducing trees and shrubs that attract birds.  Later, in the 1950s, our records again show that special planting programs were put in place to provide food and shelter for birds.

Mount Auburn President Oakes Ames commented, “To the bird lover no area in the general vicinity of Boston holds greater attraction, particularly during the migration of the warblers in May.”  That statement holds true to this day, and as recently as 2002 Mount Auburn’s prominence as a sanctuary for birds was (re)affirmed by its designation as an Important Bird Area of Massachusetts.  Cemetery staff continues to carefully consider wildlife habitat when making decisions on our plant collections.

Since 1986 The Friends of Mount Auburn Cemetery has sponsored bird walks and compiled field observations posted by birders on the “Bird Sightings” chalk board at Entrance Gate of the Cemetery.


Sketch by Clare Walker Leslie from Birds and Birding at Mount Auburn Cemetery: An Introductory Guide (2004) by Christopher Leahy and Clare Walker Leslie.

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