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How to Choose Binoculars for Bird Watching

Bird watching -- or birding -- with its heavy attention to detail makes extensive use of binoculars. Here's how to choose the correct pair.


  • Step 1: Pay attention to the weight of the binoculars. If you plan to carry them around your neck, you will probably want a lightweight pair. On the other hand, you can purchase a binocular harness for use with heavier pairs that will take much of the weight off your neck.
  • Step 2: Consider the price of the binoculars. If you are a beginning birder, expect to spend between $100 and $200 for a good pair. For a top of the line pair, the price can be more than $1,000. Now go out and build your life list!
  • FACT: There are over 10,000 species of birds in the world. About 925 have been seen in the United States and Canada.
  • TIP: Avoid too high a magnification because hand tremors become noticeable with them. For most birders, 7 times or 8 times is best.
  • Step 3: Decide on the magnification and front lens size you need. In a designation such as 7-by-35, the first number refers to the magnification power of the optics and the second number is the size of the front lenses.
  • Step 4: Think about where you will be doing most of your birding. If you will be spending a lot of your time on open water or in fog, it will be worth investing in a waterproof or fog-proof pair.
  • Step 5: Consider the conditions under which you will be using the binoculars. If you plan to do your birding under low-light conditions, choose a pair with large objective lenses to let more light in.
  • Step 6: Consider how you will use the binoculars. If you will use them while hiking, opt for a smaller, lighter pair. If you will mount them to a tripod at home, you can select a heavier pair.

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