Choosing Bird Watching Binoculars: A Buying Guide
June 30, 2015
The most important thing when choosing a pair of bird watching binoculars is to start with a trusted brand. You'll consider several factors as you scan the skies - objective lens size, comfort, magnification, and exit pupil size - but if you start with a list of reliable brands, it'll help narrow things down
The collections of well-known brands like Leica, Swarovski, Zeiss, Nikon, and Bushnell are all excellent places to start looking for bird watching binoculars. These brands use high-quality glass, advanced coatings, and the latest binocular designs to transmit a very high percentage of the light they gather to your eyes. But of course, if you don't land on a brand you know, trust us - we know bird watching and we know binoculars. You'll find something for every budget and experience level here.
Binoculars are for the birds
Identifying and observing birds requires, above all, patience, passion, and the ability to maintain a large mental catalog. Beyond that, it requires binoculars. Birding binoculars feature a full nest of features and specs, but they all pale in importance to light-gathering capacity. Magnification is important, yes, but light gathering, light transmittance, and close focus ability should be your primary equipment concerns. Some birders may be willing to sacrifice close focus, as it tends to increase the price substantially, but we find that capturing every fine detail enhances the overall bird watching experience.
As technology advances, more and more features become accessible to the average birder, and today's binoculars reflect that. Our highest-rated birding binoculars feature dialectric prism coatings and multi-coated optics for the bird watcher who thrives on detail, or focus-free operation for the one who can't stand to miss a wing. Bird watching binoculars come in all shapes and sizes - literally. Many birders carry multiple pairs and accessories on every forest foray - compact birding binoculars to catch a thrush flushed from the brush, and full-size models to put an eye on an eyrie in the distance.
Sizes, specs, and special equipment
As a bird watcher, you spend a lot of time tracking and walking, so it helps to be able to see where you're going. For the best long-distance birding experience, look for larger binoculars or spotting scopes. These will help you scout birds, landscapes, and vantage points before you make the trek. Big binocs and spotting scopes are best used with a tripod, so consider your needs and gear capacity before taking them along.
We chirped and squawked and flapped our wings about light gathering, but magnification is an important in consideration for bird watching binoculars. It's not a telescope, though - bigger isn't always better. We recommend around an 8x magnification with objective lenses around 42mm. The larger lens increases the field of view, in case the bird takes flight, and increases image brightness and clarity. Speaking of field of view, for best results, bird watching binoculars shouldn't go below 300 feet at 1,000 yards.
Start your own pecking order
Whether your bird book has 1 entry or 1,000, bird watching binoculars are what you need to get closer.