1. Maven B1.2 8x42 Binoculars
Maven’s new B1.2 8x42 binoculars area a fantastic update to a beloved optic (their predecessor took the top spot in the upper mid-range price category in Audubon’s most recent buyer’s guide). They deliver the excellent clarity, brightness, close-focus capacity, and ease of focus we’ve come to expect from Maven, and they address the grumble we heard from smaller-handed testers about the bin’s heft. At 26.8 ounces, they’re more than two ounces lighter than the earlier model. $900; mavenbuilt.com
For excellent options for every budget, check out our Audubon Guide to Binoculars: audubon.org/binoculars.
2. Spotting Scopes
Sometimes binoculars just don’t cut it. They’re splendid when birds are nearby, but when you’re after a glimpse of shorebirds pecking along a distant mudflat or a kettle of hawks circling hundreds of feet in the air, a spotting scope, with its far greater magnification, is eminently superior. The top picks from each price category in our Audubon Guide to Scopes are all waterproof and fogproof, and produce bright, crisp images, allowing you to focus on the fine details of distant quarry.
3. Outdoorsmans Window Mount
Turn any vehicle into the ultimate mobile blind with this small but sturdy tool. Simply roll down a window partway, attach the mount to the top, slide on a scope, and then glass birds from the comfort of your car.
4. PhoneSkope Digiscoping Adapter
The close-up view of birds that binoculars and scopes provide is immensely satisfying. This adapter lets you capture those intimate images with only your smartphone; simply enter the make and model of your phone and your optics, and PhoneSkope delivers a phone case and optic adapter that are a perfect fit. Of all the adapters our tester has tried, the PhoneSkope is his hands-down favorite: “It fits perfectly, is sturdy, and great quality.”
Starting at $79; phoneskope.com
5. Zeiss Optics Lens Cleaning Kit
No matter how carefully handled, optics are bound to get to dirty. To avoid scratching—and eventually destroying—the lens coatings that is essential to performance, it’s key to clean optics only with dedicated tools, such as those in this handy kit. The air blower and dust brush remove loose debris, while the lens cleaning solution, microfiber cloth, and cleaning wipes remove smudges without marring the lenses.
6. Canon EOS R5 Mirrorless Camera
Whether you’re a pro or a serious amateur photographer or videographer, the EOS R5 has a lot to like, delivering superb image quality and quality video capture with its 45 Megapixel full-frame sensor. Its ergonomic body design and Vari-Angle Touchscreen LCD are a boon for those out shooting birds, in sometime awkward positions, for long stretches. Wildlife photographers will also appreciate the remarkable "Animal Eye" autofocus lock. Several former Audubon Photography Award winners and honorable mention awardees raved about R5 when asked, for our Summer 2021 issue, about a recent purchase they’d made that they’d recommend to a friend. “An arguably game-changing autofocus system,” said one. “The autofocus system, resolution and low light capabilities for bird photography are outstanding,” said another.
7. Sony Alpha a6400 Mirrorless Digital Camera with 55-210mm Lens and Accessories Kit
A great entry point camera for photo and video creators. With its 4k resolution this camera has impressive image quality and excellent noise reduction in low light; it also boasts good battery life, and its compact body is quiet when shooting. The accessories kit includes a Sony zoom lens ideal for bird photography and video; add a 16-50mm lens for versatile wider shots and vlogging.
8. BlackRapid Sling
Getting that perfect photo often requires a lot of waiting, then a flurry of action. Attaching your camera to a sling not only alleviates neck strain, it also allows for quick access to snap shots when that Great Gray Owl you’ve been watching for ages finally looks your way.
9. Naturescapes SKM-II Skimmer Ground Pod II
In the Summer 2021 issue of Audubon, photographer Tim Timmis shared that the Skimmer ground pod is one accessory he can’t do without. He uses the simple gadget to get low-level, eye-to-eye shots. “Birds don’t recognize you as a person when lying down, and they will walk right up to you,” he says.
10. Anker PowerCore Slim 10000
Don’t risk a dead phone cutting an outing short. This fast-charging, svelte gadget will keep your device’s battery juiced, allowing you to search bird apps and snap photos with abandon.
11. Tragopan Grouse Photography Blind V+
Get a bird’s eye view of birds without them ever knowing you’re there. A popup blind like this one completely hides a photographer and all her gear. (For a more mobile option, go with a body blind, like this one from EPGear ($100), which entirely hides camera gear, chair, and tripod, concealing hand movements that might tip off birds to your presence).
12.Yeti Crossroads Backpack
After multiple trips and many trail miles, our reviewer is still marveling at this pack’s ability to somehow stash gobs of stuff and yet keep everything easily accessible (thank you, multiple access points) and comfortable to carry. Yeti is synonymous with durability, and we expect the Crossroads to be a go-to travel bag for years to come. Available in 22L, 27L, and 35L sizes.
Starting at $200; yeti.com
13. Gregory Arrio Backpack
This sleek backpack will allow you to stay out on the trail all day. The ventilated back panel helps prevent a sweat-soaked shirt, and the adjustable straps deliver a snug fit. There’s plenty of storage, with zippered main pack access as well as two side pockets—one zippered, the other mesh. Our reviewer found that the pack rode best when fuller. Available in 18L, 22L, 24L, and plus sizes.
Starting at $80; gregorypacks.com
14. MSR Guardian Gravity Purifier
Get clean, fresh-tasting water with minimal fuss with this compact system. Simply fill the 10-liter reservoir, hang it, and let gravity do all the work. The elegant yet rugged gadget meets NSF Protocol P248, which ensures safe drinking water in any environment.
15. Orca Walker Tote
The excellent cold retention, clever magnetic split handle, wide opening, and padded shoulder make this our new favorite soft-sided cooler. The tough skin bottom pad stood up to rocky outcrops, sandy beaches, and parking lot asphalt.
16. Nemo Moonlite Reclining Chair
Nemo has taken the camp chair to a whole new level—or maybe we should say levels. The Moonlite’s adjustable seating allows you to recline, so you can watch in comfort as Snow Geese gather on a lake in front of you or hawks soar overhead. So lightweight it’s hardly noticeable in your pack, it sets up in seconds. What’s more, the webbing is made of 100% post-consumer recycled materials.
17. Costa Caldera Sunglasses
When watching hawks cross a bright sky or taking in shorebirds on a sunny day at the beach, donning a pair of sunglasses with polarized lenses will cut glare and sharpen images. These and other frames in Costa’s Untangled collection look good and also do good: They’re made from recycled fishing nets.
18. Bird Collective American Kestrel Washed Hat
Out in the field, shade is often scarce—so bring your own. We adore Bird Collective’s selection of hats. They come in a variety of styles, each has a beautifully embroidered bird on the front panel, and sales support conservation. All models have adjustable straps; our self-described “petite-headed” tester noted that the washed hat immediately became her favorite cap.
19. Therm-a-Rest Honcho Poncho
As every birder quickly learns, layering up is key when braving winter conditions. Also important: having a blanket in the car, whether to wrap around them while using their vehicle as a blind or to toast up after an outing. The synthetic-insulated, water-resistant Honcho Poncho does double duty: When fully extended, it’s a blanket; join the snaps along two sides, and it’s a cozy poncho, complete with a hood and two pockets roomy enough for your hands, phone, and a field guide. When not in use, it stuffs into a zippered pocket.
20. Outdoor Research RadiantX Gloves
Cold hands quickly take your focus off birds. With ultra-thin surface coatings to reflect radiant body heat, keeping warmth in, these gloves promise your mitts will stay extra cozy without the bulk. And they’re waterproof, windproof, breathable, and touchscreen compatible to boot.
Clothing & Shoes
21. Patagonia Houdini Jacket
There is a reason we keep coming back to the Houdini more than a decade after it first launched: It’s simply the best lightweight wind shell we’ve tried. The 3.7-ounce jacket, made from 100% recycled nylon ripstop with a durable water repellent finish, practically disappears into any bag. When the breeze picks up or the sun beats down, slip it on and it’ll immediately reveal its might.
22. Helly Hansen Life Merino Midlayer
Our reviewer reached for this layer time and again on crisp, windy fall days. The jacket is made of 65% merino wool and 35% polypropylene; the natural fibers provide breathable warmth while the featherlight synthetic fibers wick away moisture. Fully zipped up it keeps the neck toasty, and the generously long sleeves come with comfy thumb holes.
23. Icebreaker Merino 200 Oasis Leggings
Several products made with merino wool are on our list, and for good reason: its thermo-regulating, moisture-wicking, odor-stopping, and sustainable properties. These merino leggings won’t restrict your movement and are a light-yet-durable base layer for all seasons: They keep you warm in when it’s chilly outside and offer excellent wicking when the mercury rises. Available in men’s and women’s versions.
24. Kamik Heidi Rain Boots
We put these boots through the ringer—moss-covered rocks, soaked wooden walkways, muddy trails, sleety sidewalks—and always stayed steady on our feet. These 100% waterproof, phthalate-free rainboots are made from recyclable rubber and keep feet contented for hours. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that they’re so stylish they’re likely to elicit compliments.
25. Danner Campo 2650 GTX
These lightweight, handsome hikers might look a lot like your favorite sneakers, but they’re sturdy, durable, and grippy enough for you to transition from town to trail with confidence. The sock-like construction of the upper provides a secure, yet not too snug, fit, and the GORE-TEX membrane provides a waterproof yet breathable barrier. They’re also comfortable from the get-go: Our reviewer covered six miles over rolling hills on her first outing in the Campos and suffered nary a hotspot. Available in men’s and women’s versions.
26. Muck Original Duck Lace
These 100% waterproof boots are a breeze to slip into, thanks to the easy on/off design, and are comfortable enough to wear all day. In multiple outings in the Rockies throughout the fall, our reviewer found that they were plenty warm, without being too hot, and provided terrific traction on all kinds of terrain. The boots are available only in whole sizes; our reviewer recommends sizing up. (P.S. If you’re looking for a no-nonsense dead-of-winter boot, we recommend the company’s Arctic Ice ($190); the tall, rugged boots are rated to -40°F.) Available in men’s and women’s versions.
Arts & Entertainment
27. Audubon Bird Spotting Opoly Board Game
In the annals of board game history, Monopoly is one of the most storied—and spun off—creations. There’s seemingly a version for everything, and birding is no exception. In Audubon Bird Spotting Opoly the properties are species, the bills have bills, and when you head off to jail you’ve gone dipping. For bird lovers, the familiar game highs are much higher. You learn charming bird facts! Journaling and ID tips! Instead of sprawling housing developments, you save up to buy actual nest eggs. But fair warning: As the game heads to its inevitable conclusion, you may hit a new low in the pursuit of your hobby—left crushed and destitute by the tyrannical landlord of a Tricolored Heron rookery.
28. Audubon Jigsaw Puzzles
Audubon’s 1,000-piece songbird puzzles are a unique way to appreciate subtle field marks and sharpen bird identification skills from the comfort of your living room. Sorting through and organizing the colors and textures of avian images is a surefire way to train your brain to remember attributes of the featured species. And when you’re done, you’ll have a pretty piece of birdy art to admire.
Starting at $15; masterpiecesinc.com
29. Eighth Generation Hummingbird Throw Blanket
Art meets function in this gorgeous, 100% cotton throw designed by Louie Gong, a self-taught artist who was raised by his grandparents in the Nooksack tribal community in northwest Washington. His design blends traditional Coast Salish design elements and colors with a modern, geometric background. Five percent of profits from the sale of this and all of the magnificent blankets at Eighth Generation support the Inspired Natives Award for emerging arts entrepreneurs.
30. Peterson Field Guide to North American Bird Nests
For the first time in 50 years, the renowned Peterson series highlights an unsung aspect of birding that is sure to make readers appreciate birds in a whole new way. Featuring 650 breeding species from across the continent and hundreds of photographs, this guide to the remarkably varied world of bird nests is a stunner.
31. Bird: Exploring the Winged World
Phaidon, publisher of coffee table-worthy art books, has graced us with a sumptuous collection of paintings, jewelry, photography, scientific texts, and other objects celebrating avian life that spans nearly 5,000 years of human history. This jaunt through time spotlights humanity’s long-standing fascination with winged creatures. Note: Use the code AUDUBON at checkout for a $10 discount.
32. Dear Specimen
This new collection by W.J. Herbert, addresses grief, climate change, and extinction through poems addressed to fossils, animals, museum specimens, and a fictional daughter. Many birds receive their own address—dovekies, terns, doves, cardinals, mergansers, La Brea storks and eagles, and more—binding humanity’s existential struggles with those of extinct and extant wildlife. Herbert conveys difficult truths, for example speaking to a fossil trilobite, now turned fossil fuel being extracted from shale at the Permian Basin: “If we raise you, / no one can save us.” This book, 2020 National Poetry Series winner, is recommended for those looking for a new language for climate grief, and those with a fascination for fossils, museum specimens, and deep time.
33. Audubon Mural
Give a truly one-of-a-kind gift: a bird mural. The Audubon Mural Project is a public-art initiative of the National Audubon Society and Gitler &_____ Gallery. The project, which started in the New York City’s Harlem and Washington Heights neighborhoods, commissions artists to paint murals that draw attention to birds threatened by climate change. By sponsoring a medium-size gate, panel, or window mural, you’ll add to the spectacular arty avian abundance. Don’t take our word for it—use this Google map as a guide to take yourself on a tour of six dozen murals in northern Manhattan.
34. Carson Kids BugView Magnifier and Quick-Release Bug Catching Tool
Bugs might make some people for squirm, but for many birds, creepy-crawlies are essential to their survival. This magnifier, with a thumb-operated trap/release slider, gives kids a close-up look at the varied bug life around them and helps foster a deeper understanding of food webs and conservation—all without harming a fly.
35. Holly & Beau Color Changing Raincoats
Did the skies open as you were waiting for a Cooper’s Hawk to come back to feed its chicks? Your child will beg to stay out in the rain when clad in this waterproof, PVC-free jacket lined with 100% recycled polyester that changes color when wet. Choose from four different prints, all designed with toxic-free water-based inks. We’re partial to this version, of course; birds are, after all, living dinosaurs.
36. KidOrca Rain Boots with Above Knee Waders
Nothing can turn a fun outing into a tear-filled excursion faster than wet feet, and kids seem to have a knack for stepping—or gleefully jumping—into deep puddles and streams. These boots let them run free while ensuring they stay dry from the tips of their toes to their lower thighs.
37. Birdy and Nature-Themed Books for Kids
Storybooks transport and help us appreciate the world in new ways at any age. In Outside In, for instance, a little girl grapples with being inside—until “Outside,” its own character, reminds her that it is always there, waiting with treasures. That charming tale is just one of 11 illustrated books for kids about birds, plants, and natural systems will bring outdoor wonders to life for kids and parents alike that we reviewed recently. See all the titles at audubon.org.
Freebie alert: Two illustrated books produced by Audubon follow the adventures of a Burrowing Owl named Rockie. As your child goes along for the ride, she’ll learn about the sagebrush ecosystem and diversity of wildlife that inhabit the vital yet underappreciated landscape. The digital version is free; print copies are $5. Available in English and Spanish. rockies.audubon.org
38. Audubon DIY Bluebird House Kit
All three species of North American bluebirds—Eastern, Western, and Mountain—nest in tree cavities or woodpecker holes. These days, those natural sites can be hard to come by, making artificial nesting boxes an important part of bluebird conservation. Give a family of these charismatic songbirds a home—and introduce kids to woodworking—with this kit, which comes with a plush Eastern Bluebird toy. And for the child, or child at heart, who is hooked on birds and DIY projects, check out the updated Audubon Birdhouse Book ($26) for step-by-step instructions to build homes for more than 20 North American species.
39. Bower and Branch Native Tree
Native birds and native plants are made for each other—they coevolved together. Planting the right species provides food and shelter for local wildlife. Help the nature lover in your life cultivate an avian oasis by gifting them a tree sure to please them and the birds.
40. Audubon Arctic Calendar
Celebrate the stunning biodiversity of the Arctic every day. The region provides crucial habitat for 47 land and marine mammal species, and each spring, more than 200 bird species migrate to the top of the Earth from all 50 states and 6 continents. Printed on FSC-certified paper, each photo provides a window into the delicate ecosystems and creatures that inhabit them.
41. Bird Collective Woodpecker Jumbo Tote
Our reviewer kept it short and sweet: “I like woodpeckers, and I like totes. This tote is very hefty and has woodpeckers on it! And so, it is an excellent tote.” Bird Collective will donate 20% of the profits from this bag to support Alabama Audubon’s Black Belt Birding Initiative, which focuses on bringing the economic and environmental benefits of bird-based ecotourism to the area.
42. Society6 Attempted Murder Mug
What better way for a bird nerd to start the day than sipping a hot beverage from a mug with clever avian art? The only improvement we can think of is brewing up some Audubon coffee, certified Bird Friendly by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. “After weeks of use, I still chuckle every time I see this,” said our reviewer, who admitted that they also purchased the Attempted Murder tote and are eyeing the t-shirt. And coasters. And phone case.
43. National Audubon Society Birds of North America
44. Beef that Supports Bird Habitat
For the steak-lover who is also gaga for birds, give the gift of red meat that bears the Audubon Certified Bird-Friendly Seal, which supports grassland stewardship that improves habitat for bobolinks, meadowlarks, and other species. More than 3.5 million acres are now in bird-friendly land management through the Audubon Conservation Ranching program.
Starting at $110; repprovisions.com
The Northern Cardinal is just one of several species available for adoption from Audubon—an ideal gift for helping the avian aficionado on your list do her part for birds and their habitat. Each proud parent receives a plush bird that plays a recording of its song when squeezed, as well as an adoption certificate.
All product photos: Courtesy of Manufacturer
Our reviewers field test everything that we feature, and we never get paid to endorse any product. Much of the gear here comes in quieter hues to help you blend into the background and increase the odds of adding more birds to your list.