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2014 Young Birder Gift Guide

A few weeks ago I posed a question to a group of young birders on Facebook. It was pretty straightforward: “What’s on your wish list?” The comment queue was instantly filled with things like plane tickets, expensive optics, and fancy DSLR cameras. I had to refine my question and ask for some lower budget suggestions, but they came through.

Then I went and procrastinated and now this post is coming in the middle of Hanukkah and just a few days before Christmas.

But in case you are still looking for the perfect gift for the young birder on your list, here are a few thoughts.

Everyone wants fancy binoculars and spotting scopes. Knowing that this isn’t in everyone’s budget, I sent a message to Ben Lizdas, sales manager at Eagle Optics, to ask for his recommendations for a solid spotting scope that wouldn’t break the bank. Here’s what he has to say:

  • Vortex Diamondback 65mm scopeOne of this scope’s best features is the lifetime unlimited warranty. It covers any damage done to the scope, regardless of cause. For young birders with a, shall we say, sense of adventure, the warranty may be an important selling point.
  • Celestron 65mm Regal: This is just a really nice scope for the money.
  • Tripods were also on the young birder most-wanted list, and Ben recommends the Vanguard Abeo243 AV Aluminum Tripod Kit as a great place to start

Bird Camp
I’ve been going to bird camp almost every year since 1997, when Rocky Mountain Bird Observatory hired me to lead On The Wing. Although I am a leader and not a camper, I look forward to bird camp all year long. I know they say that December is the most wonderful time of the year, but I beg to differ: bird camp is the most wonderful time of the year. Just ask anyone who has gone.

If you need a last minute present for a young birder in your life, you can’t go wrong with sending them to bird camp–and can you imagine what a great stocking stuffer this would make? Some camps are already sold out, so if you are thinking about going, there’s no time like now to register. As a shameless plug for the ABA, check out Camp Colorado and Camp Avocet. I’ll also be co-leading VENT’s Camp Chiricahua.

Photo by Jennie Duberstein

Marky and an Arizona Sister at 2014 Camp Chiricahua. Photo by Jennie Duberstein

Field Gear
I know, I know. There’s an app for that. But I’m still a big fan of writing things down on paper, at least initially. That’s why I was happy to see that things like field notebooks and waterproof pens made the list. Consider a Rite in the Rain notebook or pen.

Other ideas: a binocular harness, a lens pen, or a lens cleaning kit.

Books and Apps
There are so many great ones out there, many of which have been reviewed by our wonderful student blog editors and contributors over on The Eyrie. From field guides to memoirs to general natural history, there are a lot of options out there. Next Generation Birder Matthew Bruce suggests Sandy Komito’s memoir, I Came, I Saw, I Counted. He says, “it just shows how much birds can change how we live our lives, and I lost track of the times I had to search the web to find out what species he was seeing (being a Brit, I hardly even knew of half the species!)”

Another book you might consider was reviewed by student blog editor Sarah Toner: How To Do Ecology: A Handbook. Especially for young birders looking ahead to college and considering ecology or wildlife biology as a major, this book gives a thorough but concise description of how to conduct ecological research and gives you an idea of what’s in store for those pursuing a career in this field.


There are many wonderful apps out there. From the Sibley App to BirdLog to the hot off the presses Warbler App, the choices are endless. How about a gift certificate to the iTunes Store or Google Play to let your young birder choose?

Did you know a young birder membership to the ABA is only $25? If your young birder is already an ABA member, consider adding another year. Young birder membership comes with all the perks, including subscriptions to Birding and the Birders’ Guide. A membership to your local bird club, Audubon Society, or one of the many other excellent bird conservation organizations out there is another great idea. Or if your young birder drives, how about an AAA membership? (Speaking as someone with a truck that is 29 years old and creeping up on 300,000 miles, I always opt for the membership level with the extended towing…)

This is a broad category, but this year I am going to make a plug for my friend Paul Riss and PRBY Apparel. I own the NOGO long-sleever and VEFL t-shirt, as well as the ABA RUHU Bird of the Year shirt (no longer available), and I love them all. But you know what would be really appropriate this time of year? The new Snowy Owl toque (aside: I call hats like these toboggans. Paul calls ’em toques. What do you call them?)


Bird Feeders, Seed, and other Bird-feeding Miscellany.
Does your young birder like to create habitat or feed birds? How about a nice bird feeder, a bag of sunflower seed, suet, or a gift certificate to the local garden store (one where they sell native plants, of course!) Maybe a bird bath? A young birder in the UK told me his wonderful sister bought him 150 fat balls. So, you know–there are options.

What NOT to Give
You know what most young birders don’t want? Bird-related knick-knacks. Young birder Nicole Richardson writes, “I have enough bird bookends, mugs, vases, candle holders, flower pots, alarm clocks, pencils, pens, and quilts to open my own Crazy Bird People Boutique.”

Just because they put a bird on it is no reason to inflict it upon your young birder.

I’ll wrap this up now so you have time to get out there and do some last minute shopping! What other ideas do you have for gifts for young birders?

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Jennie Duberstein
Jennie Duberstein has lived in southeastern Arizona since 2001, where she coordinates the Sonoran Joint Venture, a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service program that works to conserve the unique birds and habitats of the southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. She is the ABA's Young Birder Liaison, managing The Eyrie (the ABA’s young birder blog) and ABA Young Birders Facebook page and providing support to other young birder programs. She has worked with young birders through the ABA and other organizations since the late 1990s, directing summer camps, leading field courses, organizing conferences, and editing young birder publications. Jennie directs the ABA's Camp Colorado, co-leads VENT's Camp Chiricahua, and is a proud member of the Leica Birding Team.
Jennie Duberstein

Latest posts by Jennie Duberstein (see all)

  • My name is Mya-Rose Craig and I am a 12 year birder living in the UK. Thanks very much for this post, I really loved it. In terms of binoculars, I have have Swarovski CL Companions, which I love because they are light and small enough to fit into your hands easily. Although they are expensive, I don’t have an XBOX or any of those types of things. We do a lot of world birding and so my binoculars will come out at good value taking into account the number of years I will have them and the number of new birds I will see with them (3000 so far). Other great presents that I received was some waders (like those used by fishermen) for going into deep water whilst bird banding in reed bed, a Gro Pro action camera which I plan to wear whilst world birding particularly in rain forest to film anything that happens and a trail camera (camera trap) to hopefully film badgers, roe deer and foxes in our garden during the night and birds during the day. Other obvious gifts are cameras (bridge cameras are light and can zoom a long way), video cameras and thermal underclothing from ski shops.

    For more information about me, my birding and conservation efforts please read my blog
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