Bird watching may be one of the easiest outdoor activities to participate in as there are only two equipment necessities: a pair of binoculars and a field guide.
Binoculars are the most important tool for a bird watcher.
While the two birding essentials are relatively inexpensive, there are numerous choices in both categories. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, good binoculars can make for enjoyable birding experiences while bad binoculars can lead to headaches, eye strain and not seeing birds altogether.
Buying a pair of binoculars is a long-term investment. A decent pair of binoculars can be purchased for less than $100. The recommended magnification for bird watching is between 7x and 10x and the diameter of the lenses should be at least five times larger than the magnification power.
The binoculars should be easy to use and comfortable. Make sure the weight is not uncomfortable and they focus easily.
Along with binoculars, a field guide is also a needed tool for bird watchers.
Choosing a field guide is a little easier than selecting a pair of binoculars due to the cost involved. Some guides are limited to a certain region while others are more comprehensive including all 800-plus North American species. Some guides use photographs while others use artist renderings to depict species. Whatever the choice, it is important to research all the options and compare what is best. Most bookstores carry dozens of guides to choose from.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission recommends these six popular comprehensive guides: A Field Guide to the Birds, Eastern and Central North America (Fourth Edition, 1980, Roger Tory Peterson), Stokes Field Guide to Birds, Eastern Region (First Edition, 1996, Donald and Lillian Stokes); All the Birds of North America (First Edition, 1997, The American Bird Conservancy); Field Guide to the Birds of North America (Fourth Edition, 2002, The National Geographic Society); Focus Guide to the Birds of North America (First Edition, 2000, Kenn Kaufman); and The Sibley Guide to Birds (First Edition, 2000, David Allen Sibley).