Buying your bird-loving dad a gift related to his niche passion is a super-thoughtful idea. But, as we’ve learned from searching for gifts for the foodie dad, outdoorsy dad, and golf dad, actually finding the right thing for someone with a very specific hobby can be a tall order. We spoke to eight bird-watching experts about things that they’d love to receive to enhance their favorite pastime, and put together this list of 20 gift ideas (which also includes some of our own).
Binoculars are a bird-watching must, and “every serious birder should have a good second pair, to take a friend birding or to quickly replace a lost or damaged main pair,” according to David Barrett, creator and manager of Manhattan Bird Alert. He recommends this pair from Wingspan Optics for its low price point and excellent optical quality (at 10x42, these have 10x magnification and 42-millimeter-diameter front lenses). They’d also make great starter binoculars for a dad new to birding.
Another “affordable and easy to use” pair of binoculars that Molly Adams, founder of the Feminist Bird Club, recommends for beginner bird-watchers (these would also make a great backup pair).
Robert DeCandido — also known as Birding Bob, the leader of inexpensive bird-watching walking tours in Central Park — likes these waterproof Sightron binoculars because he can “wear them all day” without feeling any strain on his neck (they conveniently come with a carrying case, neck strap, and lens cover).
Three of our experts recommend springing for a pair of Swarovski EL Binoculars. Chase Mendenhall, Curator of Birds at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, calls them “the Porsche of optics,” and says they’re ideal for “lowlight warbler watching.” Andrew Farnsworth, a research associate at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, says that “a really good pair of binoculars” like these “will be a game changer for anyone even mildly interested in birds.” Experienced bird-watchers may want higher magnification, but a 7x or 8x pair is usually sufficient — especially with really high-end models like this, according to Farnsworth.
“This inexpensive mount lets you turn your phone and scope or binoculars into a zoom camera,” says Barrett. So-called “digi-scoping” or “digi-binning” is the easy way to take high-quality photos or videos of birds without having to buy a camera and long lens, he explains.
At just over two ounces, this nifty tripod mount is light enough to tote on bird-watching expeditions, making it easier for dad to keep his binoculars steady and focused.
If your dad already has a good pair of binoculars (or two), Farnsworth suggests buying him a spotting scope, which is basically a tiny telescope that offers much greater magnification. We like this easy-to-carry spotting scope (which comes in different styles), but he says there are “many amazing models out there for all price ranges.”
“Birding can be device-intensive, and require frequent use of apps for bird alerts, identification, playback, list-keeping, and communication,” according to Barrett. He recommends buying your dad a portable charger like this to ensure he never runs out of power out in the field.
Birding books, field guides, and games
“A field guide is a great gift; they’re available for countless locations around the world, from the obvious to the extremely esoteric,” says Farnsworth. His go-to is the National Geographic guide, but he also likes Paterson’s — his first field guide, which he still has “a soft spot for.” This volume’s heft and detailed illustrations make it a perfect coffee-table book for your birding dad to peruse on his own, or show off to friends.
This book of pigeon photography is a “gorgeous paean to New York City’s ubiquitous avian inhabitant,” says Candice Odell of the Wild Bird Fund. Its full-color pages offer a rich exploration of the history (and beauty) of the city’s unofficial (and often underappreciated) bird.
Dennis W. Hrehowsik, president of the Brooklyn Bird Club, recommends the warbler guide, which comes in the form of a book, an app, and a trifold laminated document. Adams agrees, noting the “essential” guide is especially timely for Father’s Day: “Dad will be able to study all summer to prep for warblers in their tricky fall plumage.”
Two of our experts also recommend this Sibley field guide, which Mendenhall calls “the quintessential bird guide for all ages and skill levels.” It’s also available as an app that plays the calls of individual birds. “This is the classic field guide, with updated photos and text, to all birds in the New York area — and many more,” adds Barrett.
“A rainy-day activity for the birding enthusiast,” this board game that Odell recommended allows bird-watching dads to pursue their hobby even when the weather does not. The game’s main objective is to collect the best birds to add to your aviary. It’s suitable for one to five players, takes about an hour to play, and is a favorite among birders for its attention to detail and lovely illustrations.
[Editor’s note: The Wingspan board game is currently available for preorder.]
If your birding dad has all the gear he needs, we think this vintage toucan desk lamp designed by H.T. Huang is sure to surprise and delight him.
And this old-school, drinking-bird desk toy would be a fun add-on that he’ll almost certainly get a kick out of.
Bird-watching memberships and subscriptions
Many of our experts recommended buying the bird-loving dad in your life a membership to a local birding club. “What better gift for the birder dad?” asks Tod Winston, birding guide and research associate at NYC Audubon. If he’s based in New York, NYC Audubon offers memberships starting at $25, which grant access to discounted classes, exclusive bird walks, and are recognized by many affiliate clubs throughout the country.
The Wild Bird Fund — which rehabilitates sick and injured birds before releasing them back into the wild — offers memberships that include a free tote or T-shirt, invitations to its bird-release events, and discounts on merchandise and photography walks.
If your bird-watching father is also a coffee-lover, then a subscription to Birds and Beans is the perfect way to combine his hobbies. “Growing plants well is important to birds,” according to Odell, and Winston adds that “Birds and Beans’ Smithsonian Bird-Friendly Coffee supports traditional shade-grown, organic coffee farms, which maintain the forest canopy and provide critical habitat for birds.” Subscriptions range from a 12-ounce bag of beans every 12 weeks to a two-pound bag every two weeks (and include options for decaf or espresso beans).
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