There are many ways to watch birds from the safety of your own home. However, there’s nothing like equipment that lets you get out into the field and look at birds head on. Binoculars and Telescopes help amateur and professional birdwatchers get up close and personal with birds, allowing them to be viewed just as if you were right next to them.
Things to consider before buying optics
Compare several makes and models. See what feels good in your hands and what fits your face. Examine the instrument you buy; don’t just rely on a company or a brand. There is variation in the quality, mechanical performance, and optical precision of all optics.If you buy mediocre optics, you will only replace them later with the ones you really wanted.
What do the numbers mean?
Binoculars come with numbers like 7×50, 8×29, 8×40 or 10×50. The first number is the magnification; what you see is that many times larger than you would see with naked eyes. The second number is the diameter of the large front
(objective) lens in millimeters. The greater the number the more light is captured. So higher numbers such as 10×50 mean high magnification and a lot of light let in. Are they best for bird watching, then? Not necessarily, because 1) they are heavier than binoculars with smaller numbers and 2) they magnify movement as well. So they are best used in a stable situation when, for example, you are sitting or have them on a tripod. On the other hand 8×20 binoculars are light and easy to carry but have a smaller field of view and let in the least light. Good for backpacking but not serious birdwatching. Best for birdwatching are 7×35 or 8×40. Price? You can get very decent binoculars for less than $100. Again, try before buying.
Spotting scopes are different than binoculars in that their magnification as well as focus can be adjusted and their magnification is considerably higher.
Binocular and Spotting Scope Links
Audubon Guide for Buying Binoculars
Optics for the Tropics
Binoculars for Birds
Optics4Birding: User Reviews