A Timetable of Migration at Mount Auburn in May

April 23, 2018
Setophaga Warblers Evergreen by Wenfei Tong

Setophaga Warblers Evergreen by Wenfei Tong

The month of May is when the peak abundance of migrant birds is found at Mount Auburn. In the following week by week timetable is a rather unscientific schedule of when you might expect the optimal time to see certain species. The third week of May is probably the week in which you could see close to 100 species in the Cemetery. This week you still have a few stragglers from the last days of April and the first few of the birds that come in the last days of May. Remember that as the month progresses, the foliage gets thicker, so the earlier in the season that you can find a migrant, the easier it will be to see it!

By the first week in May, many migrants will already be present such as Northern Flicker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue-headed Vireo, both Golden and Ruby crowned Kinglets, Hermit Thrush, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, and the following early warblers: Yellow-rumped, Pine, Palm and Black and white, Chipping Sparrow and Eastern Towhee.

Setophaga Warblers Deciduous by Wenfei Tong

Setophaga Warblers Deciduous by Wenfei Tong

Early morning is often the best time of day, all birds are singing and the areas around Halcyon and Auburn lakes and Willow Pond are best early, the Dell is often later in the morning and by 10 AM birds tend to quiet down and begin to feed more.

First Week of May: Spotted and Solitary sandpipers, Chimney Swift, Eastern Kingbird, Great Crested Flycatcher, House Wren, Wood Thrush, Gray Catbird, Warbling Vireo, Parula, Nashville, Yellow, Black-throated Green warblers, Ovenbird, Northern Waterthrush, Baltimore and Orchard Orioles.

Second Week of May: Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Least Flycatcher, White-eyed Vireo (uncommon), Veery, Chestnut-sided, Magnolia, Cape May (uncommon), Black-throated Blue, Blackburnian, Redstart, Common Yellowthroat, Scarlet Tanager, Rose-breasted Grosbeak and White-crowned Sparrow.

Third Week of May: Yellow and Black-billed cuckoos, Common Nighthawk, Swainson’s Thrush, Gray-cheeked-Bicknell’s Thrush (uncommon), Cedar Waxwing, Red-eyed Vireo,  Tennessee, Bay-breasted, Blackpoll, and Wilson’s warblers, Lincoln’s Sparrow and Bobolink.

Fourth Week of May: Eastern Wood pewee, Alder Flycatcher, Acadian Flycatcher (rare), Olive-sided Flycatcher (uncommon), Canada and Mourning warblers.

Setophaga Warblers Watercolours by Wenfei Tong.  Formerly a PhD candidate in evolutionary biology at Harvard, Dr. Wenfei Tong enjoyed birdwatching at Mount Auburn Cemetery when she lived in this area (in addition to photography and painting).  Visit her blog darwin’s jackal or check out some of her bird photos on flickr!

About the Author: Bob Stymeist

Bob Stymeist is Bird Observer's Bird Sightings Compiler and a regular bird walk leader for the Friends of Mount Auburn. View all posts by Bob Stymeist →


  1. mike sheehan says:

    Thank you for hosting the birding community. Springtime always includes a breakfast with the birds for several of us old grey heads (retired and almost-) from the New England District of the Corps od Engineers. My wife and I drive up from Moosup and the morning starts promptly at 7AM with breakfast at the Deluxe Towne Diner and then some birding, until the ground crew performs its seasonally-delayed start of their engines. Again, thanks for accommodating us.

    Mike & Marion Sheehan

  2. Elsa Lichman says:

    My mother grew up in Moosup, so I was stunned to see your comment! such a small place and yet so noteworthy. We even went on a pilgrimage to her old home when she was in her early 90’s. We used to honor her every single mothers’ day by a trip to the cemetary, visiting our favorite flowering bushes and trees, while my dad set up his camera.elsa lichman

    • Jennifer Johnston says:

      Hi Alison, Thank you for your question, i will forward it along to our bird experts. As far as i know though, bird migration is connected more to light and length of the day than to temperatures.

  3. Bill Rasku says:

    What is the earliest time in the morning that you can walk into the cemetery? What time do the gates open for cars? Thanks we plan to be there next Tuesday.

    • Jessica Bussmann says:

      Dear Mr. Rasku,
      The front gates open at 8 AM at the latest but are often open at 7 AM or earlier if we have a program. Next Tuesday they should be open by 7:30 AM.

  4. Tina young says:

    I wonder if I can video taping the beautiful surroundings of the cemetery ? Because it’s so beautiful. My husband and I usually visit there often to just take a slow walk , feels so peaceful and relaxing. It’s just a breath taking every time we’re there. I’m so grateful for the existence of this cemetery park. Thanks so much if you respond.

    • Jennifer Johnston says:

      Hello Tina, Thank you for your interest in Mount Auburn Cemetery! You are very welcome to take video on your phone or small camera for personal use. If you decide to use larger equipment and would like to broadcast the video, you will need a permit.

  5. Amy says:

    are there specific birding tours or walks that you can join? do you just show up to do it, or is there some type of class or group or something similar? we are interested in doing some bird-watching at the cemetery in May of 2019. any info would be helpful, thank you!

    • Jessica Bussmann says:

      Hi Amy, We do host birding tours led by expert guides throughout the Spring Migration season. We will usually post the specific dates and times in late March, so keep an eye on our website. Brookline Bird Club also leads walks here during the migration so you can check their calendar too. And you are welcome to come and explore on your own, the gates usually open by 7:15 (earlier if we have a walk on our schedule). See you in the Spring!

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