While it's true that people around the world can go outside their homes and see birds with the naked eye, having some basic equipment will enhance your bird watching experiences. With quality binoculars, birds go from "that small brown one" to a male House Sparrow or a Carolina wren. Below is a list of bird watching equipment. You don't have to buy everything all at once. Start with binoculars and a hat for the sun, then see where they take you!
Choose binoculars strong enough to view birds in their nests high atop the tallest trees or across a wide crevasse. Don't make the mistake of buying a cheap pair to get started, as that will only frustrate you. For birding, choose binoculars with magnification and light absorption between 8 × 40 and 10 × 42. The higher numbers mean larger and heavier the binoculars, so consider what you can carry comfortably. Also, look for strong straps and a quality carrying / storage case.
Knowing the names of the birds out in the fields will enhance your bird watching experiences. Choose field guides by the continent in which you live, that contain illustrations and descriptions not photographs. Try the National Geographic Bird Guides series.
Get into the habit of documenting your bird sightings with size, coloring, and shape. Sketching the bird in the field is helpful for two reasons. 1) It will help you remember what you saw so you can look it up later. 2) So you can place it on your lifelong bird sighting list! While any notebook from the grocery store will work for a short time, do yourself a favor and choose a birding notebook journal that is weather resistant.
Take a hat to keep the sun off your head, a warm jacket for mornings and evenings, and a proper fitting pair of hiking boots are highly recommended. Wear earth tones not bright colors, so you don't scare the birds away. The right bird watching apparel will make a difference for you and for the birds!
A scope and tripod can be helpful for viewing birds that hang out in ponds or are nesting in a nearby tree or hill. They can be heavy and take time to setup, so they are not recommended for viewing birds in flight.
If you're a birding photographer, then a quality camera is a must. For the rest of us, consider leaving the camera at home and taking the time to actually watch the birds with your own eyes.
That's all you need to get started. Happy Birding!!!
Next: Use our Bird Watching Equipment List Tool to build a custom list of basic birding equipment in .pdf format.
Next: Shop for binoculars and other birding equipment.