If you’ve got a loved one or close friend who simply loves watching birds then our gift guide will help you pick the ideal Christmas or birthday gift to enable them to pursue their favourite hobbies, and make them remember you as the worlds more generous and thoughtful present giver around.
Birds are beautiful and intriguing to watch, and avid birders can easily spend hours on end viewing their favourite feathered friends. By using the correct equipment, bird watchers can get a fantastic up close view of New Zealand’s birds, and relish in the detailed sighting that they’ve been treated to.
If you’re not much of a bird watcher yourself, but you want to give a gift that your bird loving friends and family will adore and get lots of use out of then a pair of bird watching binoculars, or a fantastic spotting scope will be a real hit. Use our brief guide below to help you choose the correct equipment for bird watching, then browse our recommended products to choose the ideal gift. We’ve kept things simple and highlighted all of the important features to look out for when choosing bird watching optics to ensure that the product that you choose is fit for purpose.
Don’t have enough time to read the entire article? Read the key points highlighted in green and then jump to the bottom of the page for our recommendations or browse our full range of product suggestions for bird watchers.
Bird watching binoculars
Choose binoculars that have a magnification of 7x, 8x or 10x.
The magnification or power of a pair of binoculars governs how much they zoom in on a subject. The higher the magnification, the more detail that you’ll be able to see, but higher magnifications aren’t always best. Highly magnified images are more susceptible to become blurred by shaking hands, and their field of view; or the amount of the landscape that you can see, is smaller. The magnification a bird watcher chooses to opt for us down to personal preference, but we’d always recommend magnifications 10x or lower.
Field of view
If you’re choosing between binoculars, opt for the ones with a wider field of view (shown in m or ft in the specifications section of our binocular listings). The larger the field of view, the more of the landscape being observed can be seen at one time.
The field of view of a binocular is basically the width of the scene that is in view when you look through them. Binoculars with a wider field of view are preferable when bird watching, as it makes it easier and quicker to spot small fast moving birds as they fly across the landscape.
If you’re buying binoculars for children, or adults with small faces, then opt for those with the smallest minimum interpupillary distance so that the eye cups will comfortably line up with their eyes.
The distance between the eye cups of a set of binoculars is called the interpupillary distance. In many binoculars, the interpupillary distance can be adjusted by moving the barrels of the binoculars closer together or further apart thanks to a central hinge in the binoculars body. Some but not all binoculars will provide you with the maximum and minimum distance that eye cups can move apart, so that you can assess whether you think that this distance will be suitable for the person that you’re buying them for.
Waterproof and fogproofing
Choose binoculars that are waterproof and nitrogen purged to prevent them from fogging up and becoming water damaged.
Even if you don’t think that the binoculars will be used in torrential downpours, it’s important that they have a waterproof coating and have been properly sealed with O-rings to prevent changes in temperate and damp environments causing their internal lenses to fog and moisture to gather. Properly sealed binoculars also give you the reassurance that dust and dirt can’t get inside the lenses and ruin a beautiful view.
If possible, choose binoculars with fully multicoated lenses to increase light transmission and produce bright and clear images.
Most binoculars have lenses that have at least one layer of anti reflective coatings. These coatings help light pass through the lenses in the binocular and ultimately make the images that they produce clear, bright and crisp. The more coatings binocular lenses have, the better they transmit light. Generally, binoculars are classed as having ‘coated’, ‘multi-coated’ or ‘fully multi-coated’ lenses depending on how many layers of coating they have had applied to them. If possible always choose ‘fully multi-coated optics for the best and most enjoyable viewing experience.
If the person that you’re buying bird watching binoculars for wears eye glasses, then choosing binoculars with long eye of 15mm or more is important.
The eye relief of a set of binoculars refers to how far away from your eyes you can hold them and still see the full image produced by them. If you’re friend or family member wears glasses, then they’ll need to hold the binoculars further away from their eyes than people who don’t, so keep the need for long eye relief in mind when choosing your present.
Size and weight
Opt for either mid-sized or full-sized binoculars with with objective lenses that are between 30mm and 42mm in width.
The size and weight of a pair of binoculars is closely linked to the size of their lenses. Whether bird watchers choose mid sized or full sized binoculars is often down to personal preference, and how much size and weight they want to carry.
In general, the larger the lenses, the brighter and clearer the images the binoculars produce will be, however they’ll also be larger and heavier. Take some time to consider when and where the binoculars will get used and whether the recipient of your gift will be able to use them in comfort.
If the binoculars will be used in densely wooded areas, or at dawn or dusk, then full sized binoculars with 42mm lenses may be needed to produce a bright enough image. In general, full sized binoculars with 42mm lenses (e.g 8x42 binoculars) have many benefits for bird watching, including producing bright, clear, higher resolution images then those with smaller lenses.
If 42mm lensed binoculars are going to be too heavy, you may wish to opt for a compromise between comfort and clarity and give mid sized, 30mm lensed binoculars this Christmas.
In summary, look for binoculars that:
- Are 7x, 8x, or 10x magnification
- Are mid-size or full size
- Have a wide field of view
- Are waterproof and fog proof
- Are fully multicoated
- Have good eye relief is they’re for glasses wearers
- Have a small interpupillary distance if they’re for smaller adults or children
What about spotting scopes?
Spotting scopes also make fantastic gifts for people who are really passionate about birding, and already own a pair of binoculars but feel that they would like a more powerful optic to observe birds and nature in greater detail.
In short, a spotting scope is a powerful telescope design for land viewing. Spotters are becoming increasingly popular amongst birders who feel that their binoculars just don’t offer enough magnification to see birds in fine detail from a long distance. Spotting scopes are particularly helpful when you want to locate and observe a bird or animal from a long distance without disturbing it and scaring it away.
Spotting scopes offer much higher magnifications than binoculars and come with zoom eye pieces that allow you to magnify images at different intensities. A common zoom range for spotting scopes is between 20x - 60x and with this they usually have larger lenses than binoculars too. Used with a tripod, spotting scopes offer very stable images that show targets of interest in great detail and clarity.
If you’re not sure whether a spotting scope would make the ideal gift for your bird loving gift recipients this Christmas then ask yourself the following questions:
Do they already own binoculars and wish that they could see birds in more detail with a higher magnification?
Have they been trying to spot an illusive bird for a while but feel that they’re too close to where they nest and keep scaring it away?
Do they get fed up of holding binoculars for long periods of time and wish they could have their hands free to bird spotting note taking?
Do they frequently watch birds in a stationary position such as in a hide?
If the answer to the above questions is yes, then you should consider adding a brand new spotting scope to their stocking this Christmas. If you’re opting for a spotter then be sure to look for one that:
- Is waterproof and fog proof
- Is durable with a rubber coating
- Has fully multicoated lenses
- Comes with lens caps and a sunshade
- Has an included tripod or is tripod adaptable
- Has a large lens thats 50mm wide or more
- Has a good magnification range - e.g. between 20x and 60x
If you need a hand deciding on the perfect present please don't hesitate to contact us for some helpful advice.