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At Arnold Arboretum, It’s Time to Tweet

Bird species abound at North America’s oldest public arboretum


The northern cardinal is one of 185 species sighted at the Arnold Arboretum. Robert Mayer, Arnold Arboretum archives

With 256 lushly planted acres in Boston’s Jamaica Plain, the Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University, North America’s oldest public arboretum, is a banquet for birds and the people who watch them. The park offers a checklist that includes 185 species sighted over the past 100 years. Compiled by Robert Mayer several years ago, the list classifies species by season and grades them from abundant to rare.

In summer, this link in the meandering chain of ponds, forest, and fields known as the Emerald Necklace offers glimpses of red-tailed hawks, eastern kingbirds, northern mockingbirds, cardinals, song sparrows, goldfinches, and mourning doves, as well as the slim but real chance of sighting some feathered rarities, including the blue-winged warbler, perigrine falcon, or yellow-billed cuckoo. Prepared with contributions from local birders, the watchlist also draws on logs by C. E. Faxon (1895), Richard Weaver (1971), and Miriam Dickey (1976).

Boston’s Emerald Necklace park system was designed by 19th-century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, also known for creating New York City’s Central Park. Those interested in the fauna, flora, and history of the arboretum, which was established on an old farmstead in 1872 for the scientific study of trees, can stop at the Visitor Center in the Hunnewell Building. An enchanting, dog-friendly (leashes, please) walking place, the park welcomes visitors from sunrise to sunset every day of the year and is closed to cars except by permit for people with special needs.

The Arnold Arboretum is on the Arborway in Jamaica Plain. Find more information or arrange a guided tour here or call 617-524-1718.

This story originally ran June 7, 2010; it has been recently updated to include new locations and current information.

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Susan Seligson, Senior Writer for BU Today and Bostonia
Susan Seligson

Susan Seligson can be reached at sueselig@bu.edu.

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