"Do you see the yellow on the tail?" Keeping binoculars handy can get your family and friends joining in on the fun of identifying woodland wildlife.

Once you have a field guide, you will be on your way to identifying the birds that appear on your land. Another very useful piece of equipment is a good set of binoculars. You will be able to see some birds without the use of binoculars, but many birds will not come close enough to accurately identify without the aid of magnification.

There is a dizzying array of binocular types available in the market, Here are some tips to help you find the right pair:

  • Size matters If you are watching birds from a window in your home, large binoculars are fine. But if you plan to walk about, consider buying a smaller pair. Note however, that most birders recommend against buying compact binoculars, because the optics are generally not good for birding.
  • Optics demystified Binocular optics are described with two numbers—the first number gives the magnification and the second tells the size of the lens, in millimeters. For example, you may see 8x32 or 10x40 as types of binoculars. You can often gauge the sharpness and brightness of a pair of binoculars by this number. In general, the larger the ratio between the numbers, the better the image will be for birding. So, 8x42 will provide a sharper and brighter image than 10x42. A pair of 10x42 binoculars have greater magnification, but this can intensify hand shake and make it hard to focus on a specific bird. A good mid-range binocular size is 8x32, which can provide a bright, sharp image, while being easy to carry around.
  • One size does not fit all  The most important consideration when buying binoculars is that they work well for you. Try them out before you buy. Do they feel right? Are they easy to focus? Can you see a bright image and a wide field of view? If you wear glasses, do try binoculars have adjustable eyepieces that will work for your eyes.

The most important qualities of good binoculars are ease of use, appropriate size, and quality optics. You may want to get birding binoculars, because they are designed specifically for watching birds. But the most important thing is to get a pair of binoculars that feel right in your hands and work for your needs.

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