Gift Ideas for Birdwatchers

Are you looking for a gift for someone who loves to go birdwatching, or who is really into feeding wild birds? This article gives you gift ideas for all kinds of birders – beginning, intermediate and advanced – even The Birder Who Has Everything.

Everything I recommend can be found online with a Google search. Otherwise, check with specialty retailers that sell bird feeding supplies. They usually stock lots of items for bird lovers.

Cool New Gadgets

Did you know you can buy a handheld machine (to carry on hikes) that plays bird songs? It’s called the Birdsong Identiflyer (about $30) that plays various song cards (about $15). You can purchase the card specific to your region (“Eastern Yardbirds,” for example).

Know a birder with an iPod? There’s a cool new product that converts and indexes bird song CDs for use on an iPod. It’s called birdPod. But first you have to puchase the Stokes CDs (about $20 for either Eastern or Western region). Then you can go birdwatching with your iPod and have quick access to birdsongs that are indexed for easy reference. Available from the birdPod website only. The software to convert it for iPod use is $69 (for either Eastern or Western birds) or $118 for all.

CDs

You can find bird song CDs online or in specialty stores. Here are some good ones:

“Common Birds and Their Songs” is a CD (and companion booklet) from Lang Elliott. This would be more of a beginner’s collection.

Donald and Lillian Stokes offer CDs containing either the Eastern or Western American species. For intermediate to advanced birders.

“Bird Song Ear Training Guide” by John Feith – like the Stokes CDs, this is for serious birders.

Birding Journals / Notebooks

Birding journals are available at specialty stores, but my favorite is one available through Barnes & Noble. It’s a journal published by Galison and illustrated by Julie Ziekfoose with lined pages, little sketches, and a Checklist of US Birds. About $8.

Birding Accessories

Hip Pack – for active hikers/birdwatchers, a sturdy hip pack (also called a waist pack, daypack or fanny pack) is essential. You can find them a outdoor stores like REI, and many have large compartments (for field guides) and room for water bottles and other gear. $20-$80.

Binocular Harness – wearing binoculars for hours can strain the neck. The solution is a binocular harness (also called a suspender) that distributes the weight more evenly. Audubon makes a good one, and also Cabela’s (made for hunters, but works great for anyone). $20-$50.

Lens Pen – it’s important to keep binoculars clean, and a lens pen is the ideal tool. Available online or at camera stores. Under $15.

Audubon Bird Call Whistle – a fun little wood-and-metal noisemaker that you manipulate to make bird sounds. Can be used in the field to attract birds. About $8.

Bird Feeder Cleaning Brushes – if you know someone with lots of feeders, having the right tool to clean them makes life easier. Visit a specialty hardware/feed store, or a specialty chain like Wild Birds Unlimited or The Wild Bird Store for a good selection. Also available online. $5-$10.

Bird Bath Dripper – lots of people have bird baths, but a great addition is a dripper. This is a gadget that you hook to a hose that drips water into the bath, thus attracting birds with sound and movement. $40-$60.

Magazine Subscriptions

Buy them a subscription to a birding magazine, such as “Wild Bird” or “Birdwatcher’s Digest.”

Videos / DVDs

“Winged Migration” is a documentary about the thousand-mile long flights of birds. This has amazing close-up shots of birds in flight, and minimal narration – mostly music.

“March of the Penguins” is a movie that shows the life cycle of Emperor Penguins in Antarctica. You get an intimate look at the long trek they make to their breeding grounds, and see how the eggs are laid and hatchlings are raised.

“The Life of Birds” by David Attenborough. This is a documentary (originally aired on PBS) that has 10 parts (5 volumes). It’s a worldwide view of different bird species and unusual bird behavior. Attenborough goes to the far reaches of the planet to get rare footage of exotic birds. About $50.

Books

The old stand-by gifts in this category would be books. Any book store should carry a variety of books interesting to birders – field guides, species-specific books, and books by “professional” birders about birdwatching. You can also find books on bird behavior and bird songs. Here are some of my recommendations:

Books About Bird Behavior

“Bird Migration” by Thomas Alerstam

“Why Birds Sing” by David Rothenberg

Books by Expert Birders

Tales of birding adventures by Kenn Kaufman. Kaufman is well known among birders for his humorous real-life stories of birdwatching. “Kingbird Highway” tells about the year when he was 19 and hitch-hiked across America in search of birds.

“Tales of a Low-Rent Birder” by Pete Dunne. This is a collection of nineteen essays and sketches written between 1977 and 1985. Dunne also wrote “The Feather Quest,” a diary of one year of US birding.

“The Big Year” by Mark Obmascik. A humorous account of Obmascik’s attempt to see as many birds as possible in one year.

Books about Individual Species

Hummingbirds – any book by Annette Heidcamp about bringing hummingbirds into her home for recuperation.

“The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill” by Mark Bittner. Mark was the subject of an acclaimed documentary about how he befriended the parrots in San Francisco.

“Red Tails in Love: Pale Male’s Story” by Annette Winn. Pale Male is the nickname for the red-tailed hawk that nests near Central Park in NYC.

“The Race to Save the Lord God Bird” by Phillip Hoose. This book about the ivory-billed woodpecker provides the historical context behind the recent alleged sighting of a bird thought to be extinct.

“The Bluebird Book” by Donald and Lillian Stokes. This is billed as the complete guide to attracting and understanding bluebirds.

“The Hummingbird Book” by Donald and Lillian Stokes. This is a guide to attracting, identifying and enjoying hummers.

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