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A top 5 gift guide for your birding family or casual birdwatching buddy

Updated: Dec 5, 2023

Birders and birdwatchers can be an odd bunch of people. They have an intense love of birds, but understanding that passion and translating it to gift-giving can be mind-boggling for those outside their feather-filled sphere. Here at Flocking Around, I aim to make your mind much less of a bog and more of a holiday desert. (If you have a better bog/boggled joke, please put it in the comments below.) Wait... that's not right...?

a man in a pink hat and orange shirt holds two bags filled with birdseed
Sometimes the best gifts are the most simple!

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Please note everything in this list is something I own, have tested extensively, or is an item I have made. I do not promote equipment that I do not believe in. For example, Bird Buddy contacted me before launch, asking me to help spread the word. I kindly informed them I could only offer space on this site once I personally tested one of their camera feeders. And now, I have. Which leads me to number FIVE on my holiday wishlist for birders:

Note: The below list is truly a holiday wishlist. If budget restraints did not exist, this would be where I would point friends and family. However, that is not realistic for many of us. For some ideas that are wallet-friendly, go to the next section!

Gift Idea #5 - Be a BUDDY, a Bird Buddy

If you had asked me two years ago about a Bird Budy camera bird feeder, I would have given you the side-eye. However, after these smart feeders began shipping, my interest began growing. Fortunately, Bird Buddy has gifted me two solar-powered feeders to test and act as a host in their in-app feature: Bird Buddy Explore. Go find the Flocking Around Roost there! (I was not paid to include their feeder in this list, nor were the buddies provided in exchange for a review.) I have been using my first Bird Buddy for around two weeks and am thoroughly impressed. This is not feeding birds in the traditional methods many of us use. Instead, this small feeder allows you to enjoy your feeders even when not at home! Users receive postcards throughout the day, highlighting the birds that sampled their feeder wares. These postcards are packed with pre-identified photos and videos of hungry avian visitors. Are the images and videos as good as a DSLR or mirrorless camera? Nope! But they are pretty impressive. See examples from my yard below.

a blue and black bird holds several shelled peanuts in its beak in a close-up, wide angle view
A Steller's Jay visits my Bird Buddy feeder!

Gift Idea #4 - Play a game of KEEP AWAY

Some people love squirrels on their feeders. And to you poor, brave souls, I applaud you. But for the rest of us who cannot afford to support 42 fox squirrels (yes, I have had over 40 fox squirrels at my house), the gift of a feeder pole with a squirrel baffle means a lot of Christmas cheer and even more birdseed left in the feeder! The baffle not only limits the hordes of squirrels but can also keep a conniving raccoon at bay. I have several versions of the same style of feeder poles and shepherd's hooks, and I am still waiting to see a squirrel or raccoon solve their secrets. With various options, based upon the needs of your gift-receiver, I offer my top three choices.

Gift Idea #3 - Renew their FOCUS

Binoculars and other optics age. Glass becomes pitted, coatings wear off, and seals weaken and break. If your favorite bird-lover has a pair of binoculars older than their 401k, it might be time to upgrade their optics. Technology improves the effectiveness of birding optics every year. And at the top of the optics game is always the same name: Nikon. Sure, I have dabbled in other glass and occasionally wandered astray from the good name of Nikon. Still, I always seem to find myself right back in their warm, sharp, and beautifully bokeh'd embrace. My first pair of nockies were Nikon Monarchs, and this year, I recommend a gift of some Nikons to your loved ones as well. Specifically, I recommend the Nikon Monarch M5 wobbly-gogglies. Could you go with Vortex instead? Absolutely. At a similar price point, the Monarch and Diamondback lines are at the top of the budget and quality balance. (I recently recommended the Diamondback to my mother for my paps for Christmas. He uses a larger pair, and the Diamondbacks come in 12x50, which is why I went Vortex over Nikon in that example.)

Nikon Monarch M5:

Vortex Diamondback:

a pair of nikon binoculars sits in front of a background filled with bird images
I have had over a decade with my original Nikon Monarch nockies. But these new Monarchs are not bad!

Gift Idea #2 - LENS someone a helping hand

Some birds are big; some birds are small. Some birds are short, and some birds are tall. Regardless of size, all birds are difficult to photograph. Birds are alert, attentive, and can quickly depart on the wing. Since we clumsy humans cannot always be as sneaky as possible, we need a piece of gear that gets our view closer without moving our bodies closer. This is where this NEW big hoss does its best work. The Nikon Nikkor Z 180-600mm VR telephoto lens is the sharpest, most potent, and most affordable wildlife lens from the Big Three lens producers, in my opinion. You will see examples from this lens scattered throughout the article, and if you want to see the full-sized photos, click the download at the bottom of the article. Of course, if you are not like me and are still running Sony gear, check out the Sony FE 200-600mm G lens. The Nikon and Sony lenses are quite similar in most tests.

Nikkor Z 180-600mm VR:

Sony 200-600mm G:

a harris's sparrow sits in a pile of sticks
Even when shot through SEVERAL panes of dirty glass, this Harris's Sparrow came out fairly sharp! Camera: Nikon Z8 + Lens: Nikkor Z 180-600mm VR

Gift Idea #1 - Get something in the NIK(ON) of time

It is 2023, and the DSLR is OUT! Now, the MILC is in. What is the MILC? It is a Mirrorless Interchangeable Lens Camera! Mirrorless is the new evolution of bird photography, and the latest cameras are mind-blowing. Of course, I say this as a bird person who uses a camera and not a camera person who looks at birds. Please keep this in mind! I have worked with Sony for the past five years. However, their service for gear and camera improvements has yet to keep up with many budgets and needs. So this year, I jumped back to Nikon (my first wildlife camera was a Nikon). This is not to say Sony is not quality, but Nikon is renowned for its strengths in wildlife photography. And the Nikon Z8, my recommendation for this year, has outperformed my wildest dreams, especially when paired with the Nikkor Z 180-600mm lens. I am only a few weeks in, but the capabilities of this camera have blown me away! Want the tech specs? Visit Nikon to get it all. In the meantime, see some examples of photos captured with this powerful combination and download the full-sized images at the bottom of the article. The only camera that can currently hold its own against the Nikon Z8 is the Sony a1. This camera stands above almost all other cameras but has a price tag that is shocking when sitting next to the Z8.

These images are compressed for quicker load on the site. See the full-size images in the box at the bottom of the article. Remember, I am a bird person with a camera, not a photographer looking at birds.

A Bald Eagle is landing on ice with its feet extended
A Bald Eagle landing on ice shot with a Nikon Z8 + Nikkor Z 180-600mm.
A pair of Bufflehead take off from some icy water
A pair of Bufflehead take off from some icy water. Shot on Nikon Z8 + Nikkor Z 180-600mm.

Budget ideas for birdwatchers!

Trust me. I get it. The above list is for those who are less affected by the recent years of inflated prices. While the list above is what would create my top five wishlist for birding gear (if I had not already acquired the equipment), I understand it might be just that: a WISHlist. For those looking for gifts with a more reasonable price tag, I offer five alternative present ideas:

Budget Gift #5 - CATCH this guide!

Buying bird books for birdwatchers is a dangerous game. Why? Many birders have a library with a plethora of field and reference guides. They have likely beat all gift-givers to the book purchase. However, this new Field Guide to Flycatchers of North America covers some species that are a bit more obscure, and the book may not yet sit on a certain someone's shelf. My suggestion? Do a little reconnaissance. If you see this small but informative guide, switch gears and go even newer with the Terns of North America: A Photographic Guide. Both books are reasonably priced and cover some bird groups not well covered in the birdverse.

Field Guide to Flycatchers:

Terns of North America:

Budget Gift #4 - HARNESS your love!

Binoculars come with neckstraps. But guess what? Wear those binoculars long enough, and you will feel a sore neck. Combine the binocular weight with looking up at warblers in the canopy? Double the pain! You might even call it a pain in the neck. 👀🥁 How can you help your loved one eliminate this pain? A specialized chest harness from Vortex! This simple and affordable harness takes the pressure off of necks and distributes it evenly across shoulders and upper back. They will LOVE this gift in the long term.

Vortex Harness:

Nikon Harness:

Budget Gift #3 - FEED everyone's joy!

Introducing someone to the joy that birds bring us? Or reinvigorating a friend's backyard space? This is the feeder for you. The Birds Choice platform feeder is sustainably produced (from recycled plastic), sturdy, and pairs perfectly with any feeder poles listed previously in this article.

Platform feeder:

A pair of rose-breasted grosbeak eat on a platform feeder.
Birds love these sturdy platform feeders!

Budget Gift #2 - Don't be a holiday MUNG-ster!

Birders need energy. Birders need to attain that energy while traveling. And they need lots of it. But candy is just not the answer! Instead, I offer you one of the Flocking Around crew's favorite road snacks: mung beans. Yes, it's a weird name. Yes, Creed Bratton from The Office made them infamous. But let me offer some real-world knowledge. These beans stomp. They will rock every taste bud, fill every belly, and energize all birders. Be warned, after a first bite, you will get the MUNG-chies for more!

Mung bean snack:

Budget Gift #1 - Flock Around all year

Yes, I am going to toot my own horn here. I put a lot of time, effort, and LOVE into this gift idea. My 2024 Flocking Around Bird Calendar is put together to make everyone smile when they see each image. Close-ups, silly poses, and fan favorites are all included in this desktop calendar. I hope you appreciate it!

Flocking Around Calendar:

Enjoy a quick gallery highlighting some of my favorite parts of the calendar!

Share your time and love!

While sharing a physical gift is considerate, I remind everyone that the best gift offered this time of year is your time! Spend some time with your loved ones this year. Play a board game, go birding, participate in a Christmas Bird Count, or go for a hike. Just go and be with those who are most important to you.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all of you, my favorite flockers!

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1 Comment

Dec 05, 2023

I could have given you the skinny on the Bird Buddy. I love mine........if only I could keep the squirrels off!

Zach is showing off gear and encouraging visitors to check out his favorite gear on his Amazon Associate page.

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