Spruce Hill Bird Sanctuary – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - Atlas Obscura

Spruce Hill Bird Sanctuary

Hidden behind West Philadelphia rowhomes is a haven for migratory and local bird species both ordinary and rare.  


The Spruce Hill Bird Sanctuary is really quite easy to miss. There are no signs, nor is there plaque, marker, or other designator announcing its presence. It’s one of the best-kept secrets of West Philadelphia, and for a good reason.

The Bird Sanctuary is surrounded on all sides by backyards and is, essentially, a backyard. However, it’s designated as a wildlife area. It consists of several paths, birdfeeders, benches, and squirrels, as well as any mixture of local migratory bird species.

It’s home to 16 regularly-observed bird species including mourning doves, starlings, juncos, cardinals, goldfinches, gray catbirds, and purple finches. Other bird species occasionally drop by, as well as the ever-present squirrels, and in warmer seasons, butterflies.

The sanctuary, which is only accessible by two narrow alleys that border residential homes and garages. The area is an amalgamation of several backyards, and the rest of the backyards and access to homes are fenced in. Built on top of a formerly vacant lot, the area is now covered in native plants, benches carved out of fallen trees, well-maintained paths, and a bird bath.

There’s a mister that seasonally sprays water for the resident Hummingbird population, as well as multiple bird feeders. There is also a lending library and bird list in the space, and you may be able to pick up a guide to neighborhood birds (if there are any left, that is) in the library box.

Know Before You Go

The Bird Sanctuary is bordering private residences, so please respectfully while visiting (it is also very close to Fiume). Also, try not to peeve the birds (they are easily frightened), and give them space. The most accessible entrance is located next to 233 South Melville Street (the red house towards Locust Street), from which the alley into the sanctuary begins. However, there is another entrance located next to 258 S. 45th Street, but this entrance is not recommended due to unstable footing and the possibility of ice. The sanctuary is open 24 hours, seven days a week, but the best time to go is around 1 to 3 p.m. when the wildlife is most active.

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