The 12 Best Binoculars for Birdwatching

Choose one of these pairs, which are used by professional ornithologists.

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Composite of bird-watching binoculars
Photo: Courtesy of Amazon

Birding has become enormously popular in the past few years. According to National Geographic, 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.)

But 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 avians about. You just need the right pair of binoculars to spot them. But before you purchase just any old pair, there are a few things to note: Models with a magnification power of eight or 10 and a lens size between 40 and 42 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. You also don't have to buy the most expensive pair, although a satisfying degree of brightness, ease of focus, and durability is more likely to be found in the $250-plus range.

Shop the Best Binoculars on the Market

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

Best Overall: Vortex Optics Diamondback 8x42 HD Binoculars

Vortex Optics Diamondback 8x42 HD Binoculars
Courtesy of Amazon

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

Best in High End: Nikon Monarch HG Binoculars

Nikon Monarch HG Binoculars
Courtesy of L.l. Bean

At the crack of dawn or the dwindling light of twilight, these binoculars provide super-sharp images with 8-times magnification and an exceptional field of view of 435 feet at 1,000 meters. This essential is also 100 percent water- and fog-proof, so your view will stay clear, no matter the outdoor conditions.

Best Neck Strap: Nocs Provisions Honor Native Land Binocular Bundle

Nocs Provisions Honor Native Land Binocular Bundle
Courtesy of REI

Not only do these binoculars provide the best birdwatching experience (thanks to 357 feet of viewing ability), but they're also comfortable. You can rest the binoculars around your neck using a limited-edition woven tapestry strap, designed by artist Amelia Winger-Bearskin. The strap was made as an homage to the Honor Native Land initiative and features traditional patterns and beadwork of the Seneca-Cayuga Nation of Oklahoma, where Winger-Bearskin is a member.

Best Monocular: Night Owl Optics 5-Power NOXM50 Night Vision Monocular

Night Owl Optics 5-Power NOXM50 Night Vision Monocular
Courtesy of Amazon

If you're interested in nocturnal birds like owls and nighthawks, you'll need this night vision monocular. It has a 5-times magnification capability, an extended body, and a molded plastic focus ring for premier birdwatching.

Best Vision: Canon 12x36 Image Stabilization III Binoculars

Canon 12x36 Image Stabilization III Binoculars
Courtesy of Amazon

These Canon 12 x 36 Image Stabilization III Binoculars are known for their great visual quality. The company uses optics technology to allow for premier image stabilization that's equivalent to what is used for their Canon EF camera lenses.

For Serious Birders: Swarovski 8.5x42 EL42 Binoculars

Swarovski 8.5x42 EL42 Binoculars
Courtesy of B&H Photo

This splurge-worthy pair is designed for elite birders. They offer a slightly higher magnification over the standard 8-times magnification optics and limit visible hand shake. Plus, there is a wide 60-degree angle of view, so you can see your surroundings clearly without having to move your head.

Best With Camera Adapter: Gosky Roof Prism Binoculars for Adults

Gosky Roof Prism Binoculars for Adults
Courtesy of Amazon

Two factors are most important in binoculars with a built-in camera: high quality captures and long-lasting battery life. This pair comes with a smartphone adapter that's compatible with almost all manufacturers, from Apple to Android.

Most Weatherproof: Nocs Provisions Standard Issue 8x25 Waterproof Binoculars

Nocs Provisions Standard Issue 8x25 Waterproof Binoculars
Courtesy of Huckberry

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

Best for Beginners: Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 Binoculars

Nikon Monarch 5 8x42 Binoculars
Courtesy of Amazon

If this is your first foray into the world of birding, opt for this tried-and-true standby: These binoculars have an all-around comfortable feel and offer notably sharp images. It features phase-correction-coated roof prisms, which allow for a high resolution, along with a close focus distance of 7.8 feet—so you can see what's right in front of you without blurring your vision.

Best Value: Celestron 72332 Binoculars

Celestron 72332 Binoculars
Courtesy of Amazon

This pair may not place high for ergonomics but, for the price point, it hits a lot of marks: It has a high magnification power, is weather-resistant, and shows razor-sharp images in true-to-life color.

Most Compact: Carson 3D Series High Definition Waterproof Binoculars

Carson 3D Series High Definition Waterproof Binoculars
Courtesy of Amazon

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

Best for Kids: Obuby Real Binoculars for Kids

Obuby Real Binoculars for Kids
Courtesy of Amazon

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

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