14 Things that will make a Birder Happy

Pine grosbeak by Peter Ferguson

Pine grosbeak by Peter Ferguson


The holidays are just around the corner and here’s a list of gift ideas to help you keep the birder(s) in your life happy! (I’ve deliberately omitted binoculars, scopes, etc., from the list; not only are they expensive, but choosing them takes time, research and often boils down to personal preference.)

  1. A fantastic Warbler guide. Though we’re ensconced in the holiday spirit at the moment, Spring is really just around the corner! About 16 weeks separate us from our first warbler sighting of 2014. Why not start planning early? The Warbler Guide, by Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle is the newest indispensable book to add to any birder’s collection. For the serious and novice alike. The book has excellent fall warbler picture spreads and heaps of helpful information, including song finder charts and comparative warbler tail pictures! The birder in your life will use this book year-round, trust me.
  2. An Audubon Bird clock. A surprisingly practical gift. The singing clock suits any home-décor, and also affords a fabulous opportunity to practice song recognition! Don’t worry; it’s possible to turn the bird songs off. But why would you want to?
  3. A fantastic Bird calendar. I would recommend David Sibley’s 2014 Birder’s Year calendar. Like the Audubon bird clock, this calendar is practical, educational, and aesthetically pleasing all at once. Sibley’s field guide remains one of my favorites for its lucidity and high-quality information. Not an easy combination. The calendar delivers an impressive amount of birdy information while regaling us with its lovely illustrations.
  4. Rain pants. Contrary to what magazines depict, birding isn’t all about watching birds in perfect weather conditions. It’s often about standing out in the cold and sleet and rain for hours – which isn’t a problem if one is blessed with the proper gear. Rain pants help! They’re an indispensable part of any birder’s wardrobe.
  5. High quality mitts or gloves. See #4 above.
  6. Some fun bird books. It’s nice to spice up a birder’s book shelf with some whimsical, laugh-out-loud funny books, because not all avian literature needs to be hard-core ornithological in nature. I highly recommend Mike O’Connor’s Why don’t Woodpeckers get Headaches? and his fabulous sequel Why do Bluebirds Hate Me? O’Connor’s question and answer guides are an incredible blend of erudition and hilarity.
  7. An inspiring bird movie. One of the best bird documentaries I’ve seen is Jeffrey Kimball’s Birder: The Central Park Effect. The film is beautifully shot and reminds us why this passion is so intoxicating, and most of all, reminds us what it feels like to be a beginner.
  8. A membership to join a wildlife sanctuary near you.
  9. A memorable hat. This goes back to #4. Birders need gear, and hats are a top priority since hours are often spent in the sun (and, alas, rain). There’s the quintessential Tilley Hat, which offers all-season protection, or if that feels too old-school for the birder in your life try a baseball cap with some kind of birdy logo. Long Point observatory sells great ones.
  10. A gift certificate for a massage. The birder in your life will love you. Seriously. In spring and fall, most birders suffer from warbler neck and would welcome a quality massage after hours spent craning their necks in search of that elusive (but wonderful, worthwhile) fluttering song bird.
  11. Great healthy, delicious snacks. OK this sounds like a mom-gift, I know, but it’s extremely helpful to have ample supply of snacks that you actually like eating.
  12. Apparel with birdy themes. I didn’t think I’d ever say this, but clothing with birds on it makes me happy. A tshirt or sweatshirt or even birdy socks will likely make any avian enthusiast smile. As they said on a famous episode of “Portlandia”: Put a bird on it!
  13. A blank journal. Most birders you meet are listers and always in need of a notebook to track their latest sightings.

14.  Bird-friendly coffee. Delicious. Nutricious and it helps conservation! What could be better? My personal favorite is Birds and Beans (they also ship their coffee).

Julia-photo Julia Zarankin is a long-time blogger for Ontario Nature

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