Practical Tips: What do I need for birding?
The basics are your eyes, ears, and a willingness to enjoy and learn.
Most birders carry binoculars to help them see birds. These optics also serve as a “necklace” that identifies them to fellow birders who may ask, “See anything?” as they encounter each other in the field.
An internet search will provide recommendations for specific birding binoculars in various price ranges. Binocular specifications are generally based on two numbers, such as 8×42 or 10×32. A basic rule of thumb for birding binoculars is to choose binoculars with the first number (the magnification power) between 8 and 10 and the second number (the size of the objective lens—the glass at the end of the binoculars that is pointed toward the birds) between 30 and 42 millimeters.
Factors such as special lens coating, weight, and ability to transmit light all affect the price of binoculars.
Locally, you can try out and buy binoculars in person at the Audubon Naturalist Society bookstore in Chevy Chase and at some brick-and-mortar photo stores. Some online retailers will allow you to purchase several pairs and return the ones you don’t want. Be sure to select binoculars that you can hold steady (no magnification over 10x) and that fit your hands and eyes so you can see through them and adjust them easily. When in the field, many birders wear a binocular harness to distribute the weight of optics over the shoulders for all-day comfort rather than use a neck strap.
Check out this YouTube video on how to use binoculars and PRACTICE.
A bird field guide—as an app for your phone (easier to carry) or as a book (easier to read and with bigger pictures)—is essential for birders. Recommended are The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America, 2nd edition (book and app); National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 7th edition (book); and Merlin Bird ID app.
Some birders carry cameras to record their sightings. Others have spotting scopes to get good looks at far-away and slowly moving birds such as waterfowl.