Binoculars and bird watching go hand in hand together. While binoculars are not a requirement for bird watching, they are in fact the number one tool a bird watcher will need. The great thing about bird watching though, as opposed to other outdoor activities, is the fact that binoculars are all you will ever really need. Of course there are other items that you can invest in that will enhance your bird watching experience, such as a spotting scope, digital camera, and digiscoping adapters. But to get started, your first investment should definitely be a quality set of Binoculars.
When choosing the best binoculars for bird watching, the number one thing to consider is your budget. Your budget will determine the quality of binoculars you are in the market for. As with all optics equipment, as quality goes up, price follows. In fact, in most cases, price rises faster than quality demonstrating a law of diminishing returns. In most cases, $500 binoculars will be about twice as good as $250 binoculars; but $1,000 dollar binoculars will most likely be not be twice as good as $500 binoculars. The difference is even less between $2,000 and $1,000 binoculars. Still though, there is a difference between all of these; it is a difference you will have to pay for. Just remember the following quote and you will be fine:
The best rule of thumb in buying binoculars is to go with the best binoculars for bird watching you can afford because you get what you pay for.
The Best Size Binoculars for Bird Watching
There are many different sizes of binoculars on the market today from 6x50mm to 12x20mm and everything in between. This can make for a tough decision for first time buyers when looking for the best binoculars for bird watching. To make things a whole lot easier, remember that most experienced users of binoculars will agree that the best binoculars have a magnification of 10 power and an objective of 40mm – 42mm. This is spelled out as 10X40mm or 10X42mm. Of course this is open to debate and some will argue to go with less magnification and/or a bigger objective lens. But again, most will agree that 10X42mm binoculars will be the best compromise between size, magnification, field of view, and comfort.
Beginning with Quality Binoculars
Unless of course you can afford it, it might not be a good idea to rush out and buy the best binoculars for bird watching. The thing is that you may find that bird watching is not that exciting to you and then you have high dollar binoculars that do not get used for the reason you bought them. All is not lost though, because throughout life you will have times when fine optics would come in handy. If you are considering bird watching, then chances are you spend some time in the outdoors, or would like to, and you will have a need for binoculars for the rest of your life.
Like wise, you should not buy cheap binoculars for bird watching either. For one thing, if you find birding to be as addicting as we do, then you will get tons of use out of your binoculars. If you started out with cheap binoculars, then you will undoubtedly regret the purchase, and or buying a higher quality binocular later, costing you more in the long run. That is why we go by the saying (and I will say it again): Go with the best binoculars for bird watching that you can afford, because you get what you pay for. It is amazing how much a quality set of binoculars, like any listed above, enhances birdwatching over cheap binoculars.
Other Bird Watching Equipment:
Binoculars are the first piece of equipment you will need to begin enjoying bird watching. Of course binoculars are just the beginning; there are several other items that you may determine to be necessary depending on how far you decide to take this hobby. Spotting scope, cameras, digiscope adapters, bird books, video cameras, and bird feeders are just a few that come to mind (click on the link to view the best of each in their price range).
Spotting Scope: A very popular tool to most hardcore bird watchers as it enables one to view wildlife with a great deal of magnification with the use of a tripod so the view is steady. The average magnification range is around 20-60 power with an objective lens of 60-80mm. With these types of numbers you can only imagine how well you can view birds: up close with lots of light. A spotting scope is a very valuable tool for bird watchers and can really enhance the experience. Of course this is another expense, and they can get expensive.
The Highs and Lows of Bird Watching:
Like most wildlife viewing, there are both slow and fast times. There are some times when you just aren’t finding the birds you would like to. For some of us hardcore bird watchers, its these slow times when the birds are a challenge to find that make the good times even better. Unfortunately though, it is these slow times that often turn people off to bird watching. If you are just beginning, and especially going at it alone or with other non experienced bird watchers, then these slow times can be quite the norm. That is why it is advised that you go with an experienced bird watcher that knows the area and can show you spots that you will be able to consistently see intriguing birds in their natural state.
Ways to find birds:
- In most areas, there are birdwatching clubs that you can join. These are not only a good way to see birds, but also a good way to meet like minded people.
- Get information from people in a bird club on other areas you can checkout on your own, but with a little direction that will make things much easier.
- Hire a guide: most areas have some type of nature guides that can take you to areas where there are large numbers of neat birds to see. Be sure to ask a lot of questions and try to establish some other areas where the guide can suggest you check on your own time. It is likely there is not enough time for the guide to take you to all the good birding areas in one day. If you like your guide, set up another date when he or her could take you on another bird watching adventure.
- Utilize the internet. You will find an endless amount of information on almost all birds in most areas online. This is also a cheap way to get pinpoint information on all areas.
- Get a good bird watching book: There are several bird books on each individual state (some states have dozens) that tell you in great detail when and where to look for interesting birds.
- Many birds are migratory, so just because you do not see birds in what is supposed to be a good area does not mean that it is not a good spot. Try it again in a few months or find information on the best times to find the birds there. This is where a little homework can make a huge difference.
- Birds aren’t always active throughout the day. It is possible to check an area in the morning and see birds all over. Then come back with some friends to find the birds are nonexistent. This is because birds have daily routines. Some times they are feeding, sometimes nesting, some times in between. Chances are if they aren’t at their feeding areas, then they are at the nest or sleeping area.
Getting Good With Bird Watching Binoculars
It takes some use to get good at using binoculars for bird watching. Sure there are times when you find birds with the naked eye and then use you binoculars to get a better look, but then there are many times when birds wont be visible to the naked eye. This is when you let the binoculars do the work by looking through them and finding the birds with the increased magnification that birdwatching binoculars provide.
The best thing to do, and the thing that takes some bird watching experience is to glass the areas that the birds are likely to be. You will be amazed at how many times the birds are actually there, they are just not visible to the naked eye. This is also when a spotting scope can come in handy to check the areas that are even a little further out there.
Confidence in your glassing ability:
Becoming good at using binoculars while bird watching (bird looking) requires becoming confident in your abilities to find birds using just your bird watching optics. It is easy to look through the binoculars and not see anything and then move on to the next spot. The real skill though is in knowing there are birds or other wildlife in the area and using your binoculars to pick the area apart. When you find birds that the average or even experienced bird watcher would fail to find, then you can really feel good about your spotting abilities and you will turn up a lot more birds. Many birds that most people will never see or even know existed.
The key to getting good with your birding binoculars is having confidence that if you just keep looking, you will find the birds. Do not be afraid to go over an area several times. Not only will you undoubtedly miss some the first time through, but birds also move around and can come into view at anytime where there weren’t any only seconds before. Keep the binoculars to your eyes. Be confident that if they are there, you will find them. If after a while you do not find anything, them check the area from different view point. If that fails, then move on.
Of course, the main point to bird watching is not always finding neat birds, although it helps. A lot of it is just being out in the great outdoors and sharing great experiences with friends and making new friends. Even if you do not find the birds you are actually trying to find, you can almost always find some type of bird to watch. It is amazing how fun some of the more common birds can be to watch that many people do not even to bother to look at. Sure, starlings aren’t that pretty to look at, but just watching them can be fun as their characteristics and personalities can be quite intriguing. And if the birds aren’t giving the show you are wanting, then put your binoculars for bird watching to use on other wildlife like deer, elk, bears, or whatever else can be seen in the area.