Are you new to birding and looking to purchase a set of binoculars but don’t know where to start? Maybe you are an experienced birder and looking to purchase a scope to reach new distances of birding opportunities? Welcome to our new birding resources page to help as you expand your birding experiences.
Birding as a hobby has many types of equipment that can help you enrich the experience for those both long time and budding birders. Choose from our list of binoculars, bird ID books and scopes to best suit your birding and price range needs. Download this birding checklist to keep track of your bird sightings.
Binoculars give you an opportunity to get memorable views you may never get watching birds from far away. When choosing the best binoculars for you, there are some factors to consider. Do you have steady hands or whether you will be spending more time looking at birds at further distances are factors to take into account.
Binoculars come in a wide variety of magnifications and lens sizes. For those newer to the experience, attending a program with a set of binoculars you can borrow is a great way to get a feel for the magnification before you make a purchase.
How to choose the best binoculars for you:
- Pick a magnification
- 8x- smaller, wider image, brighter, easier to find/follow birds
- 10x- distance birding, narrow field of view, darker image in low light, more noticeable handshake
- Recommended: 8×42 Magnification
- Clarity/Crispness- pick somewhere dark to compare low-light performance
- 4 prisms (not all binoculars have 4 prisms)
- Durable, lightweight
- Wide field of view
- Objective Diameter- 42mm lens
- Binoculars with 40mm, 42mm, or 44mm objectives serve as a good medium compromise between low-light capability and portability
- Objectives smaller than 35mm will lead to a more portable package at the expense of light gathering, and a 50mm or larger objective will give you a very bright image along with, potentially, the aforementioned sore neck and shoulders.
- Close focus
Celestron Nature: You don’t need to spend a small fortune to get the most out of your birding experience. The Celestron Nature binoculars offer a quality image, a rubber-armored, waterproof, fogproof design, and a complete set of accessories so that you can get right out and start your adventure.
Nikon Prostaff: At just over $100, these bins still provide a bright, clear image while retaining the standard waterproof, fogproof design, adaptability for glasses-wearers, and suite of accessories. For $10 less, you can opt for the 8×42 model.
*Athlon Optics Neos G2: (Good Quality for cheap price) HD glass gives you better light transmission and brighter and sharper images. Effectively reduces reflected light and increases the transmission of light giving you a brighter image than normal single-coated lenses. Waterproof to protect the binocular in the harshest weather conditions or if accidentally submerged underwater
Vortex Optics Crossfire HD: Various magnification options and prices; these Crossfire HD binos are optimized with select glass elements to deliver exceptional resolution, cut chromatic aberration and provide outstanding color fidelity, edge-to-edge sharpness and light transmission. Adjustable eyecups twist up and down for comfortable viewing with or without eyeglasses. Rubber armor provides a secure, non-slip grip, and durable external protection while nitrogen purging and o-ring seal provides water and fogproof performance.
Tasco Essentials: Very lightweight and simple, these bins will get you by at just over $50. Designed for hunting, they come highly recommended by hunters and birders alike.
Nikon Monarch: At nearly $500, these bins are for those with a commitment to an exceptional birding experience. However, they are sure to impress, with extra-low dispersion glass lenses providing a clear, wide, quality view. They also offer a sleek, waterproof design, and a low price point compared to others of this standard.
Trailseeker 8×42 Binoculars– $274.95: These bins by Celestron come at a higher price point, but include higher quality lenses and a slightly lighter weight. They will also appeal to those who prefer black binoculars over green.
Vortex Optics Diamondback: The Vortex Optics Diamondback binoculars are less than $250, but still pack a punch. They offer anti-reflective and dielectric lens coatings to provide the most accurate image. Armored with rubber, these bins are durable, waterproof, and easy to grip. They are also tripod-compatible.
Vanguard Endeavor: Like the Nikon Monarch binoculars, these bins also feature extra-low dispersion glass lenses for a brilliant-colored, quality view. Waterproof and fogproof, the Vanguard Endeavor binoculars are a great value.
Vanguard 8×21 Vesta Compact 21: Ideal for when you’re hiking the trail, sightseeing around town, or enjoying a show or game, these binoculars are designed to be compact and extremely lightweight for easy carrying and use. Their 8x magnification brings things up close while preserving the generous field of view.
For more options and details, you can peruse Audubon’s guide to good binoculars – https://www.audubon.org/gear/binocular-guide
Birdwatching Bliss also offers a guide on what to look for in a good set of binoculars, and which brands they like. – https://www.birdwatching-bliss.com/binoculars-for-bird-watching.html
If you’re still not sure what binoculars you want, you can always wait to make a purchase. There are various places and organizations in the Detroit metro area where you can rent or borrow binoculars.
- Organizations that rent or loan out binoculars:
- Belle Isle Nature Center
- Detroit Audubon
- Local Audubon Chapters
- Ferndale Public Library (Need a Ferndale library card)
- Detroit River International Wildlife Refuge
- DNR Outdoor Adventure Center (Family Membership)
- Huron-Clinton Metroparks (For guided birding programs)
Bird Identification Guides
Your experience level as a birder is an important factor to consider when looking to purchase or download a bird identification guide. Those thicker bird ID books can sometimes feel overwhelming with hundreds of different species to flip through and not knowing where they are in the book. A good way to test your comfort level would be to stop by a bookstore, open a thicker book like Kaufman or Sibley’s, pick a bird in your head and see how long it takes you to locate it in the book. If it takes longer then you want, look into more of a Beginner style book or check out the Merlin birding app.
Birds of Michigan Field Guide: This simple and comprehensive guide is great for first-time birders and those looking to improve their bird identification skills. Color coded, with 118 Michigan species, and crisp, vibrant photos, this guide is easy to use and beautiful to look through.
Michigan Birds: A Folding Pocket Guide to Familiar Species Pamphlet: Over 440 species have been seen in the Great Lakes State, about 300 of which are either permanent residents, regular breeders, or annual migrants. When learning about such a diverse assemblage of species, it helps to have a portable reference to cut through the clutter and focus on the most familiar ones. The beautifully illustrated collection Michigan Birds is the ideal tool as it features 140 common birds as well as an ecoregion map showing over 20 bird-finding hotspots and learning sites.
BirdWatcher’s Digest Identification Guide to Backyard Birds Book: This booklet is designed to introduce you to—and help you identify—many of the most common feeder birds in North America. For each species you will find a color photograph, notes about how to identify the species, a summary of its range and the times of year it is present, and general information about the food and the type of feeder it prefers.
Merlin birding app: The Cornell Lab’s Merlin Bird ID app allows users to take photos, record sounds, describe a bird you saw, or explore 8,500+ bird species in any given region.
Kaufman’s: This guide’s index doubles as a checklist so you can mark off the birds you’ve spotted. Offering a comprehensive set of information to ensure your birding experiences are peaceful and uncomplicated, this guide is perfect for the regular birder who wants to keep track of their sightings.
Sibley’s: With nearly 7,000 original paintings and more than 600 new paintings, Sibley’s is a classic and beloved bird guide.
Peterson’s: Peterson’s guide aids readers in identifying birds in a simple and comprehensive way. This guide is a great tool for novice and experienced birders alike.
Kaufman Field Guide to Advanced Birding: Kaufman’s guide to advanced birding streamlines users’ identification process, eliminating the excess detail that many bird guides include. This guide is perfect for birders who are familiar with many bird species and simply need an effective book for quick and accurate information.
Birds of MI Audio CD: Learn to identify the birds in your state by sound. This set of two audio CDs offers the highest quality digital recordings, featuring approximately 120 minutes of bird calls. It’s a must-have for any bird lover!
Have you ever gone to identify a bird with your binoculars and it’s just a bit too far away? Maybe it’s time to upgrade to the next level. Scopes provide the means to identify birds beyond the reach of your binoculars. When choosing a scope, you have two choices, fixed or zoom.
- Fixed Eyepiece
- Between 20X and 30X
- Heat shimmer and vibrations frequently obscure the view at higher magnifications.
- Zoom Eyepiece (Best for birding)
Celestron Ultima: With anti-reflective lens coatings, a sharp-zooming eyepiece function, and a two-year warranty, this scope is great for observing birds from long distances. At just over $200, the Celestron Ultima is a great budget option for birders who are new to using a scope.
Gosky: Another great budget option is the Gosky spotting scope. This scope features a dynamic lens focusing system, a wide field of view, and a smartphone adapter which allows users to take photos.
Alpen 788: Waterproof and fogproof, the Alpen scope provides a clear, bright view with a large 80mm lens. At $500, this scope is still relatively affordable for the avid birder.
Vortex Diamondback: The Vortex Diamondback HD spotting scope provides sharp, clear focus with accurate colors, and an easily adjustable helical focus wheel. Great for low-light situations, this scope also comes with a car window mount.
Kowa Prominar: Lightweight and easy to carry, this scope delivers superior images with its coated optics and two-speed socusing mechanism. The Kowa Prominar is a higher end scope for experienced birders.
Cameras tend to be a very pricey purchase. If you don’t have the money and are not sure what type of camera you’re in the market to buy, the easiest thing you could do is rent one from a nearby store and see what works best for you before making a lifetime commitment.
- Rent a camera/lens from nearby stores or online (https://www.peerspace.com/resources/camera-equipment-rentals-detroit/)
- Nationwide Video (Wixom)
- Pegasus Lighting & Stage Equipment (Southfield)
- On Site Specialists (Madison Heights)
If you are new to birding photography and interested in getting a camera that takes great photos, is simple to use and is lightweight, check out these options below: