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Gear Guide

Choosing and Using Birding Equipment


Are you bewildered by all the different models of binoculars and spotting scopes available for birding these days? Confused about what those numbers on binoculars mean? Unsure which features to pay attention to when shopping for optics? We're here to help! We explain the technical details, and help you on the road to choosing the perfect pair of binoculars or spotting scope to fit your birding needs.

Birds are moving targets, and both skill and practice are needed to find a bird in a binocular's narrow field. Don't get discouraged. Here are some tips to help. Most important, first spot the bird with your unaided eyes and then, holding your head still and keeping your eyes on the bird, lift the binoculars to your eyes and look through them. Avoid scanning wildly through the trees. Practice locating stationary objects first—birdhouses, feeders, flowers, or tree branches. Start with large objects, then try to find progressively smaller ones. Soon you'll be using your binoculars like an expert!

Getting the Best Out of Your Binoculars
What to look for when shopping for a new pair of binoculars, including the results of the Lab's latest binocular review. How to adjust binoculars for your eyes, and how to take care of them in the field.

To read the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's latest binocular review article "The Age of Binoculars" from Living Bird magazine, Winter 2005, click here.


The Scoop on Scopes
Tips for selecting a spotting scope, including the results of the Lab's latest scope review.