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7 Great Gift Ideas for Birdwatchers

Beth likes living life in the slow lane. She takes time to enjoy the little things in life.

A Tree Swallow at Silver Lake Nature preserve in Bristol, PA.

A Tree Swallow at Silver Lake Nature preserve in Bristol, PA.

If there's an avid birder in your life, but you're not involved in the hobby yourself, it can be difficult to know what to give them. They may be serious twitchers or just like to feed birds and watch them in the garden. Whether it's Hannukah, Christmas, a birthday, an anniversary, or something else, the seven gift ideas in this article are sure to delight them.

7 Useful Gifts for the Birder in Your Life

  1. Birdwatching binoculars
  2. Bird feeders and food
  3. Nest boxes and bird houses
  4. Bird-themed calendars and diaries
  5. Membership of a birding organization
  6. Bird books and apps
  7. Wildlife cameras

1. Birdwatching Binoculars

Binoculars are an essential tool for this hobby, and they can range in cost from as little as $20 to more than several thousand dollars. You can expect to pay around $100 for a decent starter pair. The binoculars must be comfortable to use, so even though they're a gift, it may be a good idea to take the recipient with you when you're buying. It’s a bit like being fitted for a pair of specs; everyone’s face shape is slightly different. The store assistant will be able to guide you through the best type of optics to buy. 8 x 40 is usually a good focal length for birders, but this does depend on where the birding activity is likely to take place.

A bird feeder will attract lots of colorful birds (like this Northern Cardinal) to your backyard.

A bird feeder will attract lots of colorful birds (like this Northern Cardinal) to your backyard.

2. Bird Feeders and Food

For a low-cost gift that will be really appreciated, I recommend a soda bottle bird feeder kit. They’re easy to assemble, and birds love them. You’ll need an empty plastic soda bottle, some birdseed, and less than half an hour to make your own affordable wild bird feeding station. They’re a good way to get kids interested and involved in nature. If you use a variety of seed types you'll attract lots of different birds even the most urban locations. These bird feeders and their visitors are great fun, and both beginner and seasoned birdwatchers will happily spend hours watching them.

Take a look at the live cam video below to see the type of birds that may visit your backyard. Birds love sunflower seeds, thistle seeds, and peanuts. Each type of seed and nut requires a different beak size to open, so a mixture of food types will encourage visits from many different bird species. I use Meadow Ridge Farms Bird Seed Mix. It attracts black-capped chickadees, house finches, purple finches, northern cardinals, blue jays, white-breasted nuthatches, red-breasted nuthatches, common redpolls, pine grosbeaks, evening grosbeaks, mourning doves, downy woodpeckers, rock doves (pigeons), and gray jays (whiskey jacks).

Live Bird Feeder Cam in Ohio, USA

3. Nest Boxes and Bird Houses

Birds are very particular about where they set up homes. Nailing a nest box to a tree in your garden doesn’t guarantee that a female will nest there. Broody fowl put a lot of effort into hatching and rearing their chicks, so they’re only going to choose a place where they feel safe. The nest must be out of reach of predators, it must be weatherproof, and it must “feel right.”

Some species like to nest high up in the trees, while others prefer the ground. Some like completely enclosed homes and nest inside of hollow tree trunks. For others, a shallow, untidy cluster of twigs and grass is sufficient. If you buy or build a bird house, be sure to research the likes and dislikes of the species you’re hoping to attract before you spend your money. Having said that, if you have the skill, a handcrafted bird house makes an excellent and very personal gift for a loved one.

4. Bird-Themed Calendars and Diaries

For the birder who has everything, a bird-themed calendar or diary can make an ideal Christmas or birthday present. There are two main types—those with beautiful photos of nature but without much detailed information to go with them and those which are less glossy but contain lots of practical twitcher’s tips on how to find rare or unusual bird species. In my view, the best of these seasonal gifts are those produced by bird charities and nonprofits, and you’ll be supporting a good cause by buying them. The ABC (American Bird Conservancy), the ABA (American Birding Association), the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds), and the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) are all involved in encouraging birdwatchers and fundraise to support wildlife conservation.

The Bird Conservation magazine is included with membership in the ABC.

The Bird Conservation magazine is included with membership in the ABC.

5. Membership of a Birding Organization

This is the gift that keeps on giving. Buying a gift membership of an avian charitable 501(c)(3) organization not only makes you feel good at the time of purchase but will also make the recipient think of you throughout the year. Bird charities own and manage large areas of land as wildlife reserves. They provide educational resources for children and adults to learn about birds, nature, and conservation in general. They often have local activity groups which run sociable birding events exploring the countryside. Their websites are mines of information about wild birds and their habitats. If you can afford to give a Life Membership to a young person, you are giving them a gift that can keep them healthy and engaged with the outdoors for many years to come.

6. Bird Books and Birdsong Apps

Birdwatching is all about understanding birds and their behavior. The first skill a good birder needs is to be able to visually (sight) and aurally (sound) identify species and. A field guide like the National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America is a good one to have. Its clear illustrations make the identification of unfamiliar birds straightforward. There are similar guides for countries around the world; make sure you buy the birding book for your specific area.

However, many birds are shy, and it can be difficult to get more than a passing glimpse of them. Instead of identifying them by shape and color alone, a birdwatcher needs to be able to recognize different birdsongs. This is where smartphone apps come in handy. I like the North American Birds Sounds app. It has over 300 different bird sounds to refer to with some cool technology that allows you to link to Wikipedia to get more information about each species.

A juvenile brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) glides above the waves of the Pacific Ocean at Bodega Head, California.

A juvenile brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis californicus) glides above the waves of the Pacific Ocean at Bodega Head, California.

7. Wildlife Cameras

Photography and wildlife watching often go hand-in-hand. A true enthusiast wants to share their excitement about nature with others, and one way to do this is by taking pictures. There are so many different types of cameras, as technology changes all the time, that I am not going to make a recommendation for one specific camera here. A gift voucher may be preferable to buying the wrong piece of equipment. If you don’t mind your gift not being a surprise, you can ask the intended recipient what they need for their hobby. They may want a special kind of lens, or a new tripod, or even an upgrade on their existing binoculars or scope telescope.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Ann Carr from SW England on January 09, 2021:

This is great, and good advice to starters too. I love watching the birds, in our garden and out in the wild. We are lucky to have a row of willows next to our house and bird-watching is easy, from the common sparrow to woodpeckers to goldfinches and blackbirds. Occasionally we see the buzzards way up high on the thermals, or a sparrow hawk might buzz through the garden (one perched on the back of the bench last summer!). A couple of years ago a Song Thrush perched in one of the willows and sung his heart out nearly all day - wonderful! I always have my binoculars and camera handy.

We have the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) in Britain and there is also a couple of bird preservation areas set up by Peter Scott (artist and twitcher), son of the explorer. I used to live near the one in Slimbridge, Gloucestershire.

On the rhynes (irrigation ditches) here in Somerset, we have many herons, with swans roosting in the meadows and ducks everywhere. The starlings also collect in murmurations, to go to roost in the nearby Westhay Nature Reserve. In my previous house, we had a family of green woodpeckers digging holes in the lawn, to find the ants! So I'm really lucky to live in such a bird-filled area.

Well done for a superb hub!