Green-Wood Cemetery


Nesting**    Spring Migration***    Fall Migration***    Winter**

(no star = birding is not very productive, * = somewhat productive, ** = productive, *** = very productive)

In 1840, long before Prospect Park was conceived, Green-Wood Cemetery opened as a nonsectarian burial ground. Over half a million people are memorialized here by extraordinary Victorian mausoleums and monuments, among them De Witt Clinton, Horace Greeley, Reverend Henry Ward Beecher, Samuel F. B. Morse, Peter Cooper, Duncan Phyfe, Boss Tweed, and even Whistler’s father. Green-Wood Cemetery, 478 acres of rolling hills and ponds landscaped with exotic trees, shrubs and marine vegetation, lies on the highest point in Brooklyn. It is not surprising that it has become a haven for botanists, historians, art lovers, and, of course, birders, particularly during migration.

Solitary Sandpiper

by D. Speiser

Four ponds, Sylvan Lake, and Valley, Crescent, and Dell waters, thrive. (A fifth pond, Dale Water, has been filled in.) These ponds attract herons, egrets, geese, ducks, (a male Eurasian Wigeon arrives at Sylvan Lake every fall), Solitary Sandpiper, and Spotted Sandpiper. An American Bittern is often found among Valley Water’s water lilies in the fall. And there is always the chance of spotting an unusual migrant, such as Pied-billed Grebe, Green-winged Teal, Hooded Merganser, or American Coot.

The Cemetery’s avenues are lined with old oaks, and with European linden, maple, and tulip trees, which attract warblers, tanagers, grosbeaks, and orioles. Fruit trees and berry bushes are magnets for fall migrants.

Tombstones and monuments act as perches for late fall bluebirds. The old burial grounds, low and grassy, attract resident Red-tailed Hawk and Eastern Meadowlark. Cemetery workers keep track of the Red-tailed Hawk and can point out their whereabouts.

Monk Parakeets

by Francois Portmann

A colony of Monk Parakeets nest in the landmarked gatehouse’s gothic spires. These blue-green parrots, native to the mountainous regions of Argentina, are classified as released exotics. Legend has it that the now-wild birds escaped in the 1960s when a crate of caged monk parakeet broke open at JFK airport. Our winters are similar to those in the Andes, so they have thrived, nesting on the lighting fixtures at the Brooklyn College athletic field as well as on the highest spire of the main entrance gatehouse here. The parrot’s catchy name comes from the patch of gray on its head resembling a monk’s cap.

Start your birdwalk as you enter through Green-Wood Cemetery’s Main Gate. (You can’t miss the parrots.) Follow along Central Avenue, a recognized birding hot spot. Two blocks ahead you will find Pierrepont Hill (the vast acreage was originally the Pierrepont family farm) to your right. Continue on Central Avenue to the Four Corners where big oaks, fruit trees, black birch, and magnolia trees hold birds in every season. Keep on Central Avenue to the giant weeping birches. Look underneath them and around them for a variety of thrushes and warblers. Continue for another block that brings you to Peter Cooper’s circle. Bird the trees around the circle and then climb up Ocean Hill, the highest point in Brooklyn. This can be a good site in fall for hawk watching.

Blackburian Warbler

by D. Speiser

In spring, go on to Cypress Avenue, lined for half a mile with very old oaks. When the catkins are ripe, the avenue is warbler heaven.

Then go on to Crescent and Dell waters, but do not miss Dale Water, which is now a dump for leaves and mulch. Solitary Sandpiper, Spotted Sandpiper, and flocks of sparrows (chipping, field, and white-throated) are attracted to this area.

Other people prefer to bird Green-Wood Cemetery by starting at Valley Water, then on to Sylvan Lake, Dale, Dell and Crescent waters, Cypress Avenue, and return via Ocean Hill and Central Avenue. Either way you are bound to have an exciting birding experience.

Personal Safety
It is safe to bird Green-Wood Cemetery on your own. It is also a wonderful place to explore with other birders.

Directions and Hours 
Click here for Hours, Directions and the Rules of Greenwood Cemetery


Resource Persons for Green-Wood Cemetry:

2011- Rob Jett, writer, The City Birder blog

2001- Richard Rosenblum

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