Wednesday, July 10, 2024

Window Birding with Binoculars

It’s exciting to get a closer view of birds that visit your yard by using your binoculars to see the details of every marking, shades of color, bill shape, and other interesting features (Yellow-rumped Warbler photo by Paul Konrad).
A closer look at birds that visit your feeders and bird bath can make a big difference in your appreciation for the birds that visit your yard, season after season (Baltimore Oriole photo by Paul Konrad).

When a different bird lands at your feeding station, when a rare bird appears at your bird bath, when a favorite feeder visitor arrives – what do you do? Regardless of how close a view you have, we suggest taking an even closer look – with binoculars. If you have binoculars positioned within reach and grab them when it’s convenient, or when an interesting or colorful bird arrives in your yard or outside your window, you know what we mean. There is just no comparison to viewing a bird with your unaided eyes and getting a closer than close look at every detail of birds using binoculars.

Although we birders always have our binoculars in hand or within reach when we’re in the field, at home many of us become complacent about getting more detailed views of birds that we attract to our yards, feeders, and water features. It’s exciting to see the detail of every color, marking, and feather of feeder birds through binoculars, checking eye color, the shape of the bill, and even the length of claws on a bird’s feet.

Trying to see such detail in the birds you see in the woods, on the water, or in grasslands is often difficult as passerines move quickly through leaves and branches – even with the aid of binoculars. Some birds may also be a bit too far away to get a good view, but birds that visit your feeding station will spend some extra time to perch, eat, and perch again; staying relatively stationary in the process. This gives you a better chance to focus on the bird of your choice, getting a longer look to see every detail.

Try it once and you will be hooked at viewing birds at your feeders and bird bath with binoculars. If you already use your binoculars at home, you know exactly what we are talking about. Birders who have long used their binoculars at home know this and they can recall when they first began using binoculars to better appreciate the birds that appear outside their windows, or beyond their patio.

Some birders prefer to use the same binocular they use in the field at home, while others like to have a second binocular that they can leave at home to monitor birds there. If you’re interested in adding a second pair especially for home, it’s a good idea to check the “close focus distance” of binoculars as you shop. These days many binocular models allow you to focus on birds as close as 6 to 8 feet; luckily, that’s become relatively standard for binoculars with 8x magnification. Even so, most birds will be beyond the 7 foot close focus range, but the close focus distance worth keeping in mind.

Backyard Binocular Preferences

If you are interested in adding a second binocular especially for birding at home, a model that you can keep near your favorite chair where you have a clear view of your feeding station, or from your office desk – at home or work – you certainly have a wealth of binocular options available in the optics world. If you prefer not to spend too much on a second binos, the good news is that the quality of economically priced binoculars is impressive these days.

If you’re looking for a good place to start looking for binocular number 2, take a look at some of the models offered by Celestron and Vortex, and if price is less of a concern, check out Swarovski and Zeiss among the abundance of companies that offer binoculars that will serve you well at home – even when you are looking through a pane glass window. When shopping for optics, there is enough competition in the market that the adage that “you get what you pay for” is very true.

As for magnification, sticking with an 8x (8 power) magnification is best, especially with objective lenses in the standard 42mm sized objective lenses that provide a wider field of view. If you select 8x42 binoculars, you will be set for any birds anywhere, including those you see from your windows and from your deck, porch, or balcony.

We don’t suggest using “compact” binoculars with objective lenses in the 30mm range under any conditions, because they only provide a narrow view, compromising your viewing experiences, and making it harder for you to find birds you are trying to focus on.

There are also a few things to keep in mind when viewing birds when in your home or outside in your yard. We have found that it’s important to make any movements slowly and carefully; for example, when you are reaching for your binoculars or raising them to your eyes. We see that birds often are aware of your movements, even when indoors with a glass window between you. We habitually move slowly and carefully, even waiting for the bird to look away before moving.

Birding at home can also provide the best practice for birders to quickly and instinctively get a bird in view when using binoculars. Ask any beginner who’s not familiar with using binoculars – it takes some practice to find a bird through your binoculars. Practicing on birds that visit your feeding station or backyard landscaping is helpful for anyone, because we all really want the action of finding birds in our binocular view to be easy, if not instinctive – and that enhances our everyday birding experiences.

The above information underlines the importance of having your primary birding equipment within reach – your binoculars – because when you least expect it, you will be excited and delighted by the surprise appearance of a new bird, some interesting behavior, or just getting a closer look at the birds that appear during a given 5-minute period. Enjoy birding at home and in your yard with binoculars to enhance your backyard birding experiences.

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