Birdwatching is a hobby that doesn’t require a lot of supplies and equipment, but there is definitely essential birding gear that you should never go birding without. The type of gear you use can be a matter of personal preference, but there are some key pieces that can definitely enhance your birding experience and ensure you get the most out of every birdwatching trip.
Birding gear includes binoculars, a journal to document sightings, a messenger bag to store supplies, field guides that can help you to identify local birds, and a membership to a local birding club. Beginners will find that they’ll need to rely on each piece of gear for every outing, especially the field guides and the binoculars. Or you may find that you need to purchase extra gear, such as a spotting scope or camera, depending on the type of birds you’re hoping to sight.
Read on to learn more about the most commonly used pieces of birding gear, why you need them and how to choose the right equipment for your next birdwatching outing.
Must-Have Birdwatching Equipment
Below, we’ve included a list of all the important gear you’ll need for your next birding trip, including the key pieces of equipment that every birder uses, and some that can help to make your next outdoor experience more enjoyable.
Obviously, binoculars are the most important piece of equipment that you’ll use on your next outing, but not all binoculars are created equal. You can’t just use any old pair of binoculars to sight birds. In fact, clarity should be a huge concern when you’re shopping for the right pair. We recommend the Leica Duovid Binoculars, which offer the best in image clarity, not to mention a durable design that features impact-resistant casing and smooth adjustability.
Binoculars are very powerful, offering eight to ten times magnification, which will help you to easily sight and identify a bird. Of course, identifying a bird is the entire purpose of birdwatching.
Aside from binoculars, the field guide will be the most important piece of gear you bring with you. These guides are what will help you to identify different species of birds, at least until you become familiar with the process and local wildlife. In the beginning, many newbies struggle to tell one species from the next, and usually feel that most species of birds look very similar. Using a field guide can be very helpful if you find yourself struggling to properly identify a specific species. When you use the field guide, you’ll first need to look through your binoculars and write down the bird’s most obvious traits. Once the bird has flown off, you can look in the field guide. These guides are available in a couple of basic forms. One type will use mainly photographs of birds to show you the field markings. The other type will use artwork. Each type of field guide comes with its own pros and cons, which is why most birders own several. Look through a variety of field guides until you find one that contains the type of information you’re looking for.
Popular field guides include:
- National Geographic
Membership to a Birding Club
Joining a birding club is a great way to increase your birding skills. You can find a local birding club where you can meet others who share your love of birding. These clubs often have group outings and activities including presentations, meetings, and bird counts. Most clubs love accepting new members, so be sure to check online for birding clubs near you.
A birding journal is what you’ll use to record all the information regarding each bird you have sighted. This can include the markings on their plumage, their gender, what they ate, how they interacted with other birds, whether they were alone or part of a flock, the time of day of the sighting, and the location. Many birders also compile a life list, which is a list of all of the birds they’ve seen throughout their lives. And considering there are over nine hundred different species of birds in North America alone, these can be very long lists. Your records and your journal can be in digital form or print. Most birders use print since they don’t have to worry about their smartphone or iPad dying during a trip. However, with a smartphone or tablet, you can also benefit from using birding specific apps, which can keep your records and even act as a field guide. Yet, with a smart device you’ll also have to worry about weather conditions and costly damage should you drop it during an outing. Which is another reason why most birders prefer to use a simple notebook or notepad.
Messenger Bag or Vest
As birder needs a way to carry all of their gear when they’re out and about. A birding vest or messenger bag are both popular options. The vest will usually come equipped with large pockets. The packs come equipped with a variety of pockets and compartments to store all of your important gear. Some birders also prefer using a fanny pack, which is also easily accessible and equipped with plenty of space to store your gear. Ultimately, the choice is yours. But, for longer outings we recommend a messenger bag.
What’s the Best Place for Beginners to Bird?
Do you feel like traveling? Then a state park can provide the perfect classroom for your first outing. However, if you want to stick close to home and practice your bird identification skills before you hit the road, then your backyard can be the best place to start. You can also visit your local park, or take a walk around the neighborhood. You’ll be surprised at the variety of birds that live so close to home. To learn more, click here to read our article on birds for beginners.
Are Birding Binoculars Lighter than Hunting Binoculars?
Yes and no. You’ll commonly find that higher-end birding binoculars are typically much lighter than most types of hunting binoculars. But this is usually because image clarity is crucial for birding in order to identify a particular species. The weight of the binoculars has a lot to do with the type of prisms that are used. Higher priced models often come with roof prisms, which offer top of the line clarity. Additionally, most types of hunting binoculars feature thicker casing, in addition to lower quality prisms, both of which can contribute to the weight. To learn more about birding binoculars, how to choose a great pair for your first outing, and which models offer the best birding experience, click here to read our binocular’s buyer’s guide.
Birding gear includes all of the important pieces of equipment the birder can rely on during an outing, such as a journal, birding binoculars, a spotting scope, field guides, and a messenger bag that can store all of your essentials. In the end, the type of gear you bring is entirely up to you. But you’ll find that you need to depend on all of the equipment we’ve discussed here for every outing.