Strangler figs, live oaks and gumbo limbos shade the graves of Confederate soldiers and Florida pioneers. At Fort Lauderdale’s Evergreen Cemetery, a few fragments of history linger in a city overrun by strip malls.

The old graveyard also provides a haven for a vast variety of warblers, tanagers and other birds trying to navigate ancient migration routes through urbanized South Florida. On weekend mornings, bird watchers wander among the headstones, trying to spot a western spindalis or Bahama mockingbird. Sightings of rare species lead to Internet postings that draw birders from as far as California.

“It is really, really, really a hot spot,” said Ann Wiley, of Fort Lauderdale, as she walked toward the north end with her binoculars. “It’s known to have a lot of warblers. You always have Baltimore orioles come through here. You can see a great variety in a short period of time during migrations.”

The cemetery is as gothic a place as can be found in Fort Lauderdale. Even on sunny days, it’s full of dark shadows, as the tall old trees shade the paths and graves. A row of tombs lines the high ground along the thickets at the eastern edge, where the land descends sharply to a narrow pond of black water.

Near one of the northern gates stands a headstone with the single word Stranahan, marking the graves of the pioneer couple who ran a trading post on Fort Lauderdale’s New River. In 1929, depressed by financial failures, Frank Stranahan tied an iron grate to his foot and jumped into the river. His widow Ivy lived until 1971, long enough to see a downtown grow up around their house.

The cemetery, located east of Federal Highway and south of Davie Boulevard, attracts people with a taste for things eerie. Ghost hunters, such as the Palm Beach Paranormal Society, have visited with digital cameras and radiation detectors. And on a recent Saturday evening, a group of young women in dark eye makeup and shroud-like outfits met near the tombs to sample Jello molds shaped like brains before heading out on a pub crawl called a Zombie Walk.

But the most devoted visitors are those who spend hours here to add to “life lists” of birds they’ve seen. Among the species confirmed at Evergreen are the prairie warbler, eastern wood-peewee, black-throated blue warbler, red-eyed vireo, northern waterthrush, ovenbird, Swainson’s warbler, Tennessee warbler, Cape May warbler, bay-breasted warbler, Blackburnian warbler, hooded warbler, summer tanager and scarlet tanager.

“There are several thousand fanatical bird watchers who are competing to get their life lists as high as they can,” said Scott Robinson, professor of ecosystem conservation at the University of Florida’s Florida Museum of Natural History. “There are only about 700 species of birds that occur regularly in North America. The only way they can compete with other people is by hopping on an airplane to see every bird that shows up from the West Indies or Siberia.”

Bryant Roberts, an experienced birder from Davie, sparked one of the Evergreen birding frenzies earlier this year when he looked into a small live oak and spotted a western spindalis, a Bahamas species rarely seen in the United States.

“I was excited,” he said. “It was the first male I’d ever seen and the first one I’d found on my own.”

He posted the news on the Web, and word spread fast.

Jody Levin, a jazz singer who splits her time between Long Island and South Palm Beach, heard the news and came to the cemetery in hopes of adding the western spindalis to her life list of some 500 birds. On her second visit, with more than a dozen fellow birders also seeking the spindalis, a professional birding guide spotted it deep in a shrub.

“He was beautiful, as he showed his striped black and white head, his yellow-orange breast and his multi-patterned back . . . and then he was gone,” Levin wrote in an account for the North Fork Audubon Society of Long Island. “Like players on a sports team, we high- and low-fived one another. Strangers bound together by victory, and then we parted, going our separate ways.”

The concentration of birds results largely from the destruction of habitat along migration routes, forcing birds to cluster in the remaining stands of trees.

“It makes for fantastic bird watching, with them all concentrated in one place, but it’s tough on the birds,” Robinson said. “They can’t find enough food. They need to keep moving. Overall, their numbers have declined quite a bit.”

The birding bonanza occurs in a place fragrant with the past. Near one path stands the grave of Thomas J. Russ, 1st. Lt., Co. H, Florida Infantry, C.S.A. In the northwest corner stands a walled Jewish cemetery founded in 1935. Near it is a mass grave for victims of the great hurricane of 1926. At the northeast corner stands the headstone of Crazy Gregg Newell, a bar owner whose wet-T-shirt contests and low-priced beer helped make the city a legendary Spring Break destination.

To visit the cemetery with Roberts, finder of the western spindalis, is to see how much the average person misses.

On a recent visit, he spotted a prairie warbler, an eastern wood-peewee, and a black-throated blue warbler with a strangler fig fruit in her beak.

Roberts himself is a bit of a historical rarity, being a native of Broward County, and this adds to his appreciation of the cemetery.

“That’s one of the interesting things about birding here,” he said, with a glance at the rows of headstones. “I know some of the residents.”