hiker watching birds with binoculars

The Best Binoculars for Birdwatching

Choose a pair from these selects, used by professional ornithologists.
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Birding has become enormously popular in the past few years. The United States Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that there are some 45 million American birders, and the ranks of such organizations as the American Birding Association have been steadily swelling. There are local and state birding competitions as well as a North American Rare Bird Alert hot line, a phone service that alerts subscribers to the appearance of certain species they might be looking for. (Assuming the subscriber is serious, she will fly, at a moment's notice, anywhere in North America to see the species that has been spotted.)

If you want to watch birds, you need travel no farther than your backyard. At any given time of the year—anywhere in the country—there are plenty of birds about. You just need the right pair of binoculars to spot them. But before your purchase just any old pair, there are a few things to know: Models with a magnification power of eight or ten and a lens size between forty and forty-two work give the clearest view, enabling you to see the details of a feather or catch a glimpse of birds in motion from a distance. Water resistance is also a good feature, as are models that won't fog up when you venture out into cooler temperatures outside. You needn't buy the most expensive ones although a satisfying degree of brightness, ease of focus, and durability is more likely to be found in the $250-plus range.

These are the top ten best binoculars in 2021, according to birding reviews.

Ahead, shop the best binoculars and why they're recommended by the Audubon Society, ornithologists, and birder hobbyists everywhere.

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Vortex Optics Diamondback HD Binoculars
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Overall

For any and all birders, these binoculars meet the 8x magnification standard for clarity and brightness, built for durability with Armortek coating that protects the exterior lenses, and best of all? They come with an unlimited lifetime warranty.

Shop Now: Vortex Optics Diamondback 8x42 HD Binoculars, $219, amazon.com.

Swarovski 8.5x42 EL42 Binoculars with FieldPro Package
Credit: Courtesy of B&H Photo

For Serious Birders

This pair is designed for the elite birders of the community. They offer a slightly higher magnification over the standard 8x optics and limit visible hand shake.

Shop Now: Swarovski 8.5x42 EL42 Binoculars with FieldPro Package, $2,169, bhphotovideo.com.

ZEISS Conquest HD Binoculars
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best in High End

At the crack of dawn or the dwindling light of twilight, these binoculars provide super-sharp images with 8x magnification and exceptional field of view—1,000 meters.

Shop Now: ZEISS Conquest HD Binoculars, from $929, amazon.com.

Night Owl Pro Nexgen Night Vision Binoculars
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best for Night Vision

If owls and nighthawks are your interest, you'll find these nocturnal species by birding at night. For that, you'll need or night vision binoculars or a scope. This pair has a built-in columnated IR illuminator and battery life of 40 to 80 hours, depending on the infrared usage.

Shop Now: Night Owl Pro Nexgen Night Vision Binoculars, $474.94, amazon.com.

Gosky Roof Prism Binoculars for Adults
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Best with Camera Adapter

Two factors are important in a camera: high quality captures and long-lasting battery life. These binoculars come with a smartphone adapter that's compatible with almost all brands.

Shop Now: Gosky Roof Prism Binoculars for Adults, $84.99, amazon.com.

Nocs Provisions Standard Issue 8x25 Waterproof Binoculars
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Most Weatherproof

Wind, rain, and snow are all part of the outdoor elements weathered by birders. In any season, these binoculars have a non-slip grip, equipped with anti-reflective coated lenses in a fog-proof case, and come with a lifetime warranty.

Shop Now: Nocs Provisions Standard Issue 8x25 Waterproof Binoculars, $95, huckberry.com.

Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 Binoculars
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best for Beginners

If this is your first foray into the world of birding, opt for this standby: These binoculars have an all-around comfortable feel and offer notably sharp images.

Shop Now: Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 Binoculars, $309, amazon.com.

Celestron 72332 Binoculars
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Value

They may not place high for ergonomic feel but, for the price point, they hit a lot of marks: They're of a high magnification power, weather-resistant, and show razor-sharp images in true-to-life color.

Shop Now: Celestron 72332 Binoculars, $177.95, amazon.com.

Carson 3D Series High Definition Waterproof Binoculars
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Most Compact

Pocket-size ones are known to be of less quality, but here's proof that binoculars have undergone a quality revolution: This pair has a field of view at 1,000 yards.

Shop Now: Carson 3D Series High Definition Waterproof Binoculars, $269.99, amazon.com.

Obuby Real Binoculars for Kids
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best for Kids

Young children of all ages can enjoy the wonders of the natural world. Open their eyes to avian with their own pair of binoculars: These are lightweight and compact for toting in their backpack, and shock-absorbent in the event of  accidental (or in the case of kids, inevitable) dropping on the ground.

Shop Now: Obuby Real Binoculars for Kids, $19.99, amazon.com.