Gift Ideas For Birders & Birdwatchers

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Watching a Purple Finch Watching Me
Watching a Purple Finch Watching Me

Are you looking for gift ideas for a birder or a backyard birdwatcher? Or maybe you are a birder or birdwatcher yourself and want gift ideas to hint to someone else. Whether for Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, a birthday or a holiday gift, here are some ideas to make a birder or bird watcher smile.

Note: People can enjoy birds in different ways. Some bird lovers are “Birders,” people who leave their home to seek out birds wherever they may be. Others are “Backyard Birdwatchers” who often put out feeders and birdbaths in their yard to draw birds to them. Some people are both. So when choosing gifts, keep the recipient’s interests and approach to birds in mind.

Bird Feeders

(Appeals to: Birdwatchers)

There is a seemingly endless number of bird feeders out in the world. Some are excellent and some are frankly junk. The feeders on this list are the feeders I use and like in my own yard. I think any one of these would make a great gift. I’ve done posts/reviews on most of them. So follow their links to read more about them. While you may be able to find them locally, especially at a bird specialty store, I’ve included Amazon links if you need to order online.

White-Breasted Nuthatch, House Finches, American Goldfinch & Northern Cardinal in Birds Choice Hanging Feeder

Birds Choice Large Hanging Platform Feeder (Review. Note: Dome separate.) / On Amazon

Birds Choice Small Hopper Feeder

Birds Choice Small Hopper Feeder / On Amazon

When you purchase a feeder, also give some thought to where the recipient might put it. Will they need an extra hook to hang it? A pole to hang it on? A baffle to keep squirrels off it? You might also consider including a bag of appropriate bird seed/food as part of the gift.

Birdbath

(Appeals to: Birdwatchers)

Offering water can be an important way to draw a wide variety of birds to your yard. There are all kinds of birdbaths available that suit all kinds of tastes and budgets. If the gift recipient has a yard, think about giving them a birdbath. Here are two that I use in my yard that I like very much.

Also See: DIY birdbaths below.

Binoculars

(Appeals to: Birdwatchers & Birders)

Choosing binoculars for watching birds can be complicated. First, it involves research to understand the features you need. For example, 8×42 binoculars are often recommended for watching birds because they give decent magnification but their depth of field allows you to fairly easily find a bird in front of you.

You also need to think about how much you want to spend as they can cost hundreds or thousands of dollars. More expensive binoculars can give you crystal clear views with excellent color even in low light levels.

I have personally owned and used two types of Nikon binoculars for birding. Both are mid-priced, costing hundreds of dollars but not thousands. Both are solid good quality binoculars that will work well for birding. I am currently using the Nikon Monarch 7 10×42 binoculars and like them very much. The way the Monarch 7’s depth of field works, I can get slightly higher magnification (10x vs 8x) but don’t have problems finding the bird the way you sometimes can with 10x binoculars.

Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 Binoculars

Nikon Monarch 5 8×42 Binoculars / On Amazon

Nikon Monarch 7 10x42 Binoculars

Nikon Monarch 7 10×42 Binoculars / On Amazon

Binoculars Harness

(Appeals to: Birders)

If you only pick a pair of binoculars off a table to check out a bird on your feeder, you probably don’t really need a harness for them. But a regular binocular neck strap can result in muscle soreness when you walk around with binoculars hanging from your neck for hours.

On the other hand, a binocular harness takes weight off your neck, making the experience much more pleasant. This is the harness I use. It is one of the best birding purchases I’ve made.

Cornell Lab’s Bird Academy Online Classes

(Appeals to: Birdwatchers or Birders)

The folks at Cornell Lab of Ornithology know a lot about birds. I’ve taken several of Cornell’s online Bird Academy classes (and am still working my way through a few more.) There are classes for beginners and classes that are more advanced. Many focus on bird identification, but you can also learn about bird behavior and biology. Some courses are focused on birds you might see in your backyard while others are broader classes that cover one or more species found in the United States. I especially like the classes taught by Dr. Kevin McGowan. I have learned a lot through their classes. I have personally received some of their courses as a gift and I loved it.

Cornell Lab’s Bird Academy

Fun Books About Birds

(Appeals to: Birdwatchers or Birders)

While there are lots of printed bird field guides, I personally use bird identification apps although I do have a few specialty field guides (often a Kindle version I can take with me but some are good for reading through to prepare for a birding trip.) When reading about birds, I especially like books that take you beyond identification and look at bird behavior and biology (on a layman’s level.) Here are a few books that I particularly like:

The Warbler Guide / On Amazon

Beaks, Bones & Bird Songs / On Amazon

Into The Nest (Review) / On Amazon

The Sibley Guide to Bird Life & Behavior / On Amazon

Flowers That Attract Hummingbirds

(Appeals to: Birdwatchers)

If the gift is to be given during the warmer parts of the year/country, you might consider flowers that appeal to hummingbirds, either flowering plants that could be planted in the garden or in a container for outside. Ideally, look for native plants and regardless, be sure they are neonicotinoid free. Neonicotinoids are broad spectrum systemic pesticides (so they can get into the roots, leaves, pollen and nectar of a plant) that can kill pollinators like bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Some stores label plants treated with this pesticide but at some stores you will need to ask.

Look for nurseries in your area that sell plants native to your area. Often plant tags will note when a particular flower is native and/or attractive to hummingbirds.

Birding Day Bag

(Appeals to: Birders)

When you go out birding, you often have quite a bit of gear to bring with you. A bag that holds what you need, keeping it convenient but doesn’t get in your way can make a big difference in your experience. These are the bags that Jim and I use when we go for a day-long birding trip.

Camera and/or Lens For Bird Photography

(Appeals to: Birdwatchers and Birders who want to photograph birds.)

Many birders and backyard birdwatchers get drawn into bird photography. To get decent pictures of birds, especially birds in at a distance, your smartphone camera or a basic point and shoot camera isn’t going to cut it.

Professional bird photographers and many dedicated amateurs use DSLR cameras with long lens of 400 mm or higher. Amateurs on a budget or who are more comfortable with a camera that is more point-and-shoot, might instead go for a bridge camera with a built in long lens. (See my post on photographing birds at Magee Marsh for a demonstration on why a longer lens is important.)

Choosing a camera for bird photography is a really big topic that is too large for a paragraph. These are the cameras my husband and I use to get your research started.

Nikon Coolpix p900 or p1000 (Bridge cameras) Note: I use the Coolpix p900. The Coolpix p1000 is the newer version with some additional cool features. My p900 still works fine though so I can’t justify springing for it. Sigh.

Canon EOS 7D Camera with 400 mm Canon Lens

Canon EOS 7D (On Amazon) + 400 mm lens (On Amazon)

Canon EOS 7D w/400 mm lens) (DSLR camera) This is the camera and lens that Jim uses. If you get a DSLR, keep in mind that you will need at least a 400 mm lens for most bird photography. (Professionals and really committed birders will usually/often go higher with 600 or bigger lenses, but these are even more expensive and are too heavy to handhold and need a tripod.)

Birding Scope

(Appeals to: Birders)

While not every birder has or needs a scope, they can be wonderful in certain birding situations. A scope is a powerful tool that can allow you to view birds that are too far away to see well with regular binoculars. And they can get you a more magnified look at a bird than you can see somewhat with binoculars. They are particularly useful for watching waterbirds that are often way off shore or otherwise far away and hard to see.

Most birding scopes are too heavy to be hand-held successfully so when purchasing a scope, you almost always also need a good quality tripod to mount it on as well as a protective cover designed for your particular scope. To get good quality, you will likely be spending thousands of dollars. This is another huge subject and again, while I’ve tried out a few scopes on group bird walks and in stores, I haven’t used them all. This is the scope my husband and I use and like:

Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 Scope

Zeiss Conquest Gavia 85 Scope / On Amazon

Photo Editing App

(Appeals to: Birdwatchers and Birds who like to photograph birds)

If the gift’s recipient enjoys taking pictures of birds, she will probably want some type of photo editing software. I used Adobe products like Lightroom and PhotoShop for many, many years and they are excellent in quality, but I dropped them when Adobe moved to a subscription-only payment model. I now use On1 Photo Raw, which can be purchased outright. It is like a mash up of Lightroom and PhotoShop. While a little rougher around the edges than Adobe products, it does good quality work on adjusting my photos and the company continues to actively to improve it and add features.

On1 Photo Raw (Company website)

Adobe Lightroom (Company website)

Birding App or Subscription

(Appeals to: Birders and some Birdwatchers)

With the advent of smartphones, many birders have moved away from dragging paper field guide books into the field and instead use smartphone birding ID apps. Some are free (covered a little later) and some must be purchased or need a subscription. I touch on these birding apps in my “Four Favorite Birding Apps” post. (Note: Links below go to the app’s website pages.) These are the kind of gifts that a birder can use often.

iBird Pro: Purchased outright. Excellent in-depth bird ID app. (Note: I originally purchased iBird Ultimate. Because of changes required by Apple’s store, the equivalent version is now iBird Pro.)

BirdsEye: Monthly subscriptions. Several available, depending on the country where you will be birding. Very helpful for birders who want to find birds seen recently in a particular area.

Free and/or DIY Birding Gift Ideas

Want to give someone a birding related gift but have a limited budget? How about a free or do-it-yourself idea?

DIY Birdbath

(Appeals to: Birdwatchers)

Birdbaths often cost hundreds of dollars but you can make one using inexpensive supplies from your local home improvement store. If you are creative, you could decorate it as well. (To make sure you are not adding anything toxic to birds, just keep the decorations on the outside and not inside where the water goes.)

A Simple Inexpensive Homemade Birdbath

Make A Birdbath (Article)

Make Birdsavers Blinds

(Appeals to: Birdwatchers)

Huge numbers of birds die each year due to striking window glass. If this is a problem that the recipient has at their home, you might offer to make them a set of Birdsavers “Zen Window Curtains” to go over one or more of their windows. This project uses minimal supplies.

Free Smartphone Birding Apps

(Appeals to Birders and/or Birdwatchers)

There are several apps that work on smartphones that are incredibly useful for identifying birds that are free. If you know someone who has a smartphone but isn’t technically savvy but you are, you might offer to set them up with these apps and show them how to use them. (Note: Links below go to the app’s website pages.)

eBird Mobile App

Merlin Bird ID App

Audubon Bird Guide App

Raptor ID App

More Birding Gift Ideas?

Do you have additional gift ideas for birders or birdwatchers? Have you given or received a birding related gift that was especially appreciated? Please add your ideas to the comments!

Nancie

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