Cemetery Birding

American Birding Association

April 22, 2024

Spend any amount of time at all in the company of birders, and you quickly discover their proclivity for places that are, in a word, weird. For example, ice-slicked jetties in a New England blizzard when it is too miserable for even the fisherman. Or mosquito-infested swamps in the Deep South in summer. There are the pelagic trips, of course, with their chopped-up fish, odeur de diesel, and birders barfing off the stern. And SEWAGE TREATMENT PONDS. And cemeteries.

Eastern Bluebird. Woodlawn Cemetery, Forest Park, Cook Co., Illinois; April 28, 2009. Photo by © Greg Neise.

Going to cemeteries may seem “weird,” but it’s not miserable (New England), nauseating (pelagics, sewage lagoons), or downright unbearable (Atlanta in summer, anyone)? As wildlife biologist Danielle Belleny, a. k. a. “The Cemetery Birder,” relates in the Mar. 2022 Birding, cemeteries are among the most enchanting of all venues for bird study. They’re also one of the most accessible.

To be blunt about it, people die all the time and all over the place—with the result that the ABA Area is filled with cemeteries. There are at least 150,000 such burial grounds in the U.S. and Canada, with the particularly notable ones being near, and often in, our biggest metropolises.

American Robin nesting on an ornate tombstone at Waldheim Cemetery, Forest Park, Cook Co., Illinois; April 18, 2009. Photo by © Greg Neise.

ABA webczar Greg Neise, himself a big city denizen and regular visitant to cemeteries, has shared with Birding magazine this suite of photos from cemeteries around his home in Chicago. Greg tells Birding, “Urban cemeteries are great places to go birding, and I’m lucky to have several near home. They’re wonderful for quiet study of common residents, the chance for a migration fallout, or even a rare owl.

Eastern Wood-Pewee. Waldheim Cemetery, Forest Park, Cook Co., Illinois; May 15, 2017. Photo by © Greg Neise.

What are your “cemetery birding” experiences? Tell us your favorite cemeteries for birding, or just a pleasant memory or good bird from a visit to a cemetery. Please drop your comments in the space below.