Lightscape: Brooklyn’s New Winter Spectacular. Get Tickets

Birds and Other Wildlife at the Garden

Birds and Other Wildlife at the Garden

Brooklyn Botanic Garden is not only a place people go to enjoy plants. It’s also a habitat for countless birds, butterflies, bees, rabbits, chipmunks, and other wildlife. Some are just passing through, like the many species of warblers that arrive in need of food and shelter in spring. Others make their homes here, like the pair of red-tailed hawks that have been nesting and raising young here for years.

Observing the Garden’s wildlife is one of the joys of a good visit. Here is a guide for getting started.

Birds

Water fowl of all kinds are drawn to the ponds in the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, the Water Garden, and the Native Flora Garden, as well as the Lily Pools. Raptors soar overhead, and some even nest in the Garden’s tall trees. Warblers and other songbirds are frequent visitors during fall and spring migration, and familiar resident birds like cardinals, robins, and sparrows can be seen all year.

Look for

  • Herons scooping up crayfish, egrets hunting koi, cormorants and sometimes kingfishers diving deep underwater, and mallards dabbling just under the surface for insect larvae and aquatic plants in the Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden.
  • Red-tailed hawks soaring overhead, bathing in the stream, mating, hunting, and raising their young. One pair regularly nests and raises offspring in the Garden every year, and there are several other pairs nearby. Other birds of prey including peregrines and Cooper’s hawks are also frequently spotted.
  • Several species of woodpeckers, including the red-bellied woodpecker and the yellow-bellied sapsucker, drilling into trees, especially in the Native Flora Garden. Northern flickers, also a woodpecker, are common, but you’re more likely to see them feeding on ants in the grass than pecking on trees.

Insects

Butterflies, bees, and a host of other beneficial insects are an important part of the Garden’s ecosystem. Learn to spot some of these six-legged friends.

Look for

  • Butterflies of all kinds alighting on the Garden’s diverse collection of flowering plants. In summer and fall, you’ll see plenty of large, eye-catching species like monarchs and swallowtails, but also look for smaller ones, like the beautiful eastern tailed blue, which has a wingspan of just one inch.
  • Native bees like bumblebees, carpenter bees, and leaf-cutter bees on native plants, especially in the Native Flora Garden as well as the Discovery Garden, where a bee hotel provides a perfect nesting environment. During cool weather, you may even be able to chance petting fuzzy, cold-blooded creatures. Non-native honey bees can be found almost everywhere!

Mammals

Plenty of squirrels, raccoons, rabbits, and chipmunks live in the Garden. These animals have adapted to city living, but are still drawn to more natural habitat if they can find it.

Look for

  • Clues. In winter, these small animals take refuge in some of the Native Flora Garden’s century-old trees. You might not see them, but you will probably see their paw prints in the snow or frost. You may also see other evidence year-round, like squirrel dreys made of dried leaves in the trees and small piles of acorn shells left on the ground by chipmunks.
  • Babies. You may even be lucky enough to spot newborn creatures in the spring, like these young eastern cottontails that were tucked away in a nest near the Ginkgo Allée one year. If you do, please don’t touch or disturb them in any way.

Learn More:

Browse Birds of Brooklyn, and get to know some of the most familiar and fascinating birds that call Kings County their habitat.

Read about A Wildlife Walk in the Garden with one of BBG’s most observant and knowledgeable visitors.

Hear some good news about the monarch butterfly population in BBG’s Native Flora Garden.

Image, top of page: