Birding Tools

You need only two basic tools to enjoy birding: binoculars and a good bird identification field guide.

How to choose binoculars

  • Look for a right eyepiece that focuses to adjust for individual eye differences, plus central focusing to adjust for various distances.
  • Most popular magnification strength among experienced birders is either 7 x 35 or 8 x 40. Those larger than 10 x 50 tend to be overly bulky and difficult to hold steadily.
  • Depending mainly on lens quality, binoculars for birding can range in price from $50 to more than $1,000.

Bird identification guide books

Our online field guide is a good place to start identifying birds you see in Missouri. We also recommend getting a couple of good print field guides. The three listed below are illustrated in color, show range maps for all species, and contain a birder's checklist in the back. They are standards in the field and are available at most bookstores.

  • Birds of North America, by Robbins, Bruun and Zim. Illustrations by Arthur Singer. Published by Golden Press, New York. This covers all birds native to North America north of Mexico.
  • A Field Guide to the Birds, written and illustrated by Roger Tory Peterson. Published by Houghton Mifflin Co., Boston. The original eastern edition (revised numerous times) covers all birds east of the Rocky Mountains and north of Mexico.
  • Birds of North America, by the National Geographic Society. This guide also covers all birds of North America north of Mexico.

Optional tools

Spotting scopes

Spotting scopes are popular with most advanced birders and are typically designed to magnify an object 20 to 60 times. Lenses can be purchased separately and are interchangeable. Zoom lenses are available. Spotting scopes are most practical for identifying birds across the wide-open areas of marshland, mud flats and lakes. Due to their narrow fields of view and the bulkiness demanded by their high-power magnification, they must be mounted on sturdy tripods to avoid shaky images.

Bird song recordings

Learning bird songs will quickly expand your ability to distinguish one species from another. It frequently is the only way to identify species that remain hidden. Song differences are also the best way to identify certain look-alike species, such as alder and willow flycatchers. You can purchase recordings of bird songs or borrow them from your public library. Recordings should rarely be used to attract birds, because nesting birds can be threatened by invaders in their territories.

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