Best Bird Watching Equipment for Beginners

Bird watching is a great hobby for people of all ages and walks of life. It is simple, inexpensive, and can be enjoyed by anyone with a love of nature and wildlife.

To count yourself in the ‘birdwatching club’ you don’t have to be educated, pass any tests, and you can enjoy this hobby all by your lonesome if you wish. Just you and your feathered friends!

When it comes to bird watching equipment, there are a few things that will make your experience more enjoyable and productive. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars (unless you want to) to have the tools to enjoy this hobby.

We’ll explain in more detail below the bird watching gear you might find most useful.

By the way, if you click on a link and then make a purchase, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Why Do People Enjoy Bird Watching?

why do people enjoy bird watching

People enjoy birdwatching for several reasons, and all of them are valid.

  • Many people find birds beautiful and relaxing to watch. Watching the way that different species interact with each other and their environment is very interesting.
  • The challenge of bird identification and education is the allure for many new and experienced birders.
  • Some people may want to learn more about specific types of birds in order to research them, write books, or teach others about different species. It’s also a great way to learn about nature and the ecosystem in general.
  • Some bird watchers are on the hunt for their favorite bird to study, or perhaps are searching for unique different types of birds.
  • People who are more interested in studying birds or learning about them may enjoy bird behavior watching. Most of this type of activity involves watching how different species behave (eating, nesting) and observing their patterns throughout the day/season.

Finding birds can be quite challenging, which is part of what makes it so interesting.

So, what type of birding equipment should you carry with you on a birding trip, no matter if it’s in the backyard or more of a hike to different habitats.


The first piece of equipment you’ll likely need is a good set of binoculars. It’s not necessary to go overboard and buy the most expensive pair available since they’re designed for many different purposes and budgets vary.

Any set of binoculars will help you to see the birds better. As with most products, you can expect to pay more for additional features like size/weight, magnification, weatherproofing (rain, snow…), durability (glass lenses or plastic), and comfort (size of the eyepiece).

Smaller individuals may prefer lighter and smaller options, while larger individuals may prefer heavy and sturdy ones (for example a person with glasses may want to go for a pair with adjustable lenses).

If you’re not too concerned about the type or brand of binoculars you buy, there are some features you should keep in mind:

·    Aperture: the size and shape of the ‘glass’ windows that let in light to create clear images; it’s measured in millimeters. The larger the aperture, the better your image will be (smaller apertures cause more motion blur).

·      Exit pupil: usually expressed as a range (5mm-8mm for example); the larger the number, the brighter your image will be.

·      Prism coatings: basically how reflective the prisms are; more reflective = less light lost.

·      Field of view: measured in feet at a distance of 1000 yards – the higher the number is, the wider-angle your view will be.

·      Eye relief: the distance between the eyepiece and your eyes before you start losing focus or clarity; usually measured in millimeters. Basically, the closer to your eye this is, the more comfortable it will be for viewing.

You can also find mobile apps to identify birds according to their song, color, or shape/pattern.

Field Guide

To learn more about what bird species you’re interested in seeing and learning about, get a field guide to the birds of your local area (even if you live outside of where you’ll be birdwatching initially).

There are many different field guides available; each featuring different types of identification information (location maps, images, and descriptions of the birds).

You can also find mobile apps to identify birds according to their song, color, or shape/pattern.

Bird Book

While it may not be necessary, a bird book is another useful tool that can help you learn more about the birds in your area.

A bird book usually contains information on many types of birds (migration patterns, behavior, habitat…). You can also use it to compare what you think you’re seeing to make sure you’ve got the right ID.

It may be a little advanced for beginners, but if you get the chance to use it, it can end up being quite useful and fun!

There are also a number of birding apps that can be very helpful as well as efficient.


While you can get started with just binoculars and a field or bird book, having a camera on hand will help you document all of your sightings. Your cell phone might take great photos, but you do have to be within range of the bird in order to get a clear shot.

Something else to remember is that it may be difficult to approach the birds when you’re carrying your equipment around with you. Sightings are often at eye-level, so avoid dangling straps or anything else that might scare them away!

Notepad and Pen

Even for beginners, keeping track of what species you see can be a fun way to learn more.

While most people can just memorize what they see in order to record it later (and take notes on the field guide), if you’re sharing your sightings with friends…it may be helpful to also use a notepad and pen to keep track of all your information.

You can also use this to take down notes about how the bird behaved, what they were doing at the time, and where you spotted them.

Hiking Shoes or Boots

It’s best to wear comfortable hiking shoes or boots when you go birdwatching. If you are unsure about the terrain you’ll be walking through, waterproof hiking boots are a wise addition to your birding gear.

While you may not take a long hike, it’s still good to be prepared and have the right footwear for safety purposes.

Daypack or Backpack

A daypack will help you carry all of your gear either on a short hike or to store in a vehicle.

Be sure it’s big enough to hold everything comfortably and safely, but not so large that it becomes too heavy.

If you prefer, you can also use a backpack instead if the straps are comfortable enough for you.

Spotting Scope

You may also want to consider getting a spotting scope.

Since some birds can be hard to see clearly with binoculars (they’re too far away, only visible for a short period of time, etc.), this is another way you can get better views and more accurate IDs.

This type of equipment is usually very expensive – don’t worry about getting one right away.

Other Helpful Bird Watching Tools to Have on Hand

other helpful bird watching tools to have on hand

Sunscreen and Sunglasses

If you’re outdoors during the heat of the day, be sure to protect your skin (and eyes) with sunscreen and sunglasses.

Water Bottle or Hydration Pack

Though not a requirement, it’s always good for safety purposes to have water available while you hike or watch birds.  You may also want to carry a hydration pack (with or without water…sometimes it can be hot enough to warrant the extra weight).

Hat and Gloves

If you’re watching birds during colder times of the year, don’t forget to bring along hats and gloves.  You don’t want your extremities to fall victim to the cold before the rest of you do.

Field Guide Holder or Clip

If you’d like to keep your field guide in one place (and not lose page corners), a zip-up case is helpful.  You can also use any other small clip-on items, such as keys or sunglasses, to help keep the book open and accessible while you look for birds.

Bird Watching Tips

If you’re just starting out, look for easier spots to get started (water, parks, gardens) before you try more challenging or less populated areas.

When taking pictures of birds with your phone or camera, try to get pictures of their full body and keep the leaves/objects in the background as blurred as possible.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see many birds at first! They can blend into their surroundings very well for a while before they are comfortable with your presence.

Try moving around to different spots, or stay a little bit longer if you don’t see what you’re looking for.

Don’t be afraid to talk to other people – they may have more experience and can help point out possible bird sightings. Generally, groups are very friendly and willing to work together so everyone can leave satisfied!

And ask about equipment – many times, other people may have useful birdwatching supplies they aren’t using anymore and would be willing to sell or donate.

Conclusion: Bird Watching Equipment

When you are starting out birdwatching, make sure you have the right equipment.

Although it’s a simple hobby, there are some fundamentals that will make your experience much more enjoyable.

Wear comfortable shoes and clothes, bring water, hat, and gloves if needed for warmth or protection against the sun, dress according to weather conditions (if unsure, check online), remember your camera/phone for pictures of the birds you find, keep yourself hydrated with enough fluids, and don’t forget to pack a bag or backpack with everything you need.

Happy birdwatching!