American Birding Podcast



2013 Young Birder Gift Guide

Still looking for a great present for the young birder in your life? I recently asked a group of young birders what they had on their wish lists this year. Read on to see what they had to say, as well as see some of my favorite things.


I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a birder, young or old, who didn’t have a list of more books to had to her/his library. And young birders are just getting started building their collections, so there is no shortage of ideas. In addition to the more traditional field guides (the new Sibley Guide is coming out in March 2014!), travel guides, etc., think about things like biographies or books about natural history or birding culture. And if you find that you are unsure about whether or not a young birder already owns a particular book, gift cards to book stores are always a safe way to go.

one-came-homeJennie’s pick: Here’s a little-known fact about me: I am a huge fan of young adult fiction, in particular coming of age stories. And when you combine that with a bird-focused theme? It doesn’t get much better than that for this girl. So I was really excited when I received a review copy of One Came Home, by Amy Timberlake (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013, 272 pages, $16.99 hardcover). It is the story of strong-willed Georgie Burkhardt and her struggles with individuality, growing up, and finding her place in life (all things to which every young birder can relate).

The year is 1871. Thirteen-year old Georgie’s remarkable shooting ability and lack of fear of sharing her opinions and standing up for what she believes in don’t make life easy for a girl. After Georgie’s older sister Agatha mysteriously disappears, running off with a pack of pigeoners trailing the Passenger Pigeon migration, she is presumed dead. Georgie doesn’t believe this, though, and sets off on a harrowing adventure to find her sister. The author masterfully weaves Georgie’s story with the story of Passenger Pigeon hunting at its peak, women’s right to an education, a murder mystery, counterfeiters, and even a love story or two.

Being a girl in a boy’s world is another theme in this book that will strike a chord, especially with female young birders. It isn’t easy being the only girl in a male-dominated activity, as others have discussed on this blog. We need more female role models and this book delivers in spades. The way Timberlake allows Georgie’s tenacity, intelligence, ingenuity, talent, and capability to shine through even amidst seemingly insurmountable circumstances and obstacles had me cheering her on from page one. I was riveted from the moment I opened the book. This was easily one of my favorite reads of 2013, and it is something that will be enjoyed by birders and non-birders alike. Definitely put this one on your list.


Young birders often don’t have their own means of transportation. Going birding can be a challenge, especially when you aren’t old enough to drive or don’t have your own vehicle. Anything you can do to help young birders get out there is a good thing. For example, give them some home-made “vouchers” for transportation for a certain number of birding trips.

If you want to get a little bit fancier, I have yet to meet a young birder who doesn’t dream about going on a pelagic trip. Live too far from the ocean to make a pelagic a possibility? Bring your young birder to a birding festival, ABA Birding Rally, or ABA Convention instead! Festivals are a great way to meet other birders, explore a new area, and see great birds. Check out the ABA Birding Festivals Directory or the ABA Events Page to find out about upcoming events.

(And if you want to get even fancier, trips to Australia seemed be very high on the list of places young birders want to visit…)

Jennie’s Pick: There are way too many wonderful events out there for me to pick just one. But do you help organize a birding festival or conference? Help develop the next generation of birders and bird conservation by extending an invitation to a young birder to participate. Many of them are involved in all kinds of interesting projects and have better public speaking skills than most adults I know. Some are also excellent guides and can help bring a little bit of age diversity to your roster of leaders.

Bird Camp

Send your young birder to camp! One of the hardest parts about being a young birder is feeling isolated and not knowing any other people anywhere close to your age with the same interests. I’ve been running young birder camps for…well, longer than I care to admit, and I can tell you: sending a kid to camp is a life changing experience. Even if you don’t have a kid, consider making a contribution to a scholarship fund to help send someone to bird camp. It’s so worth it. From Colorado to Delaware to Arizona to Maine to New York to Washington, there are young birder summer camps across the country. Stay tuned in early January for a complete list of opportunities on The Eyrie. In the meanwhile, an I.O.U. makes a really nice present.

Jennie’s Picks: There are a number of really fantastic summer camps for young birders, and I can honestly say that I’d recommend any of them. That said…well, I am one of the leaders for ABA’s Camp Colorado and VENT’s Camp Chiricahua, and I’d love to meet/see your young birder this summer!

Steve Howell shows 2013 Camp Colorado campers his field notebooks from 25 years ago when he visited Colorado (and America) for the first time! (Photo by Jeff Bouton/Leica Sport Optics)

Steve Howell shows 2013 Camp Colorado campers his field notebooks from 25 years ago when he visited Colorado for the first time! (Photo by Jeff Bouton/Leica Sport Optics)

Artwork and Art Supplies

I have been blown away, to put it mildly, by the immense pool of artistic talent that lies within the young birder community. If your young birder is an artist, stock up on supplies–some nice paints, pens, or canvas/paper will help them continue to improve their skills. There are also lots of books about art, artists, and artistic techniques and methods that make great presents.

And even if your young birder isn’t an artist herself/himself, that doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate art! Consider giving them a little bit of inspiration and purchase a print or some original art from an established bird artist.

Jennie’s Pick: I’m not an artist. I got reasonably good with the Ed Emberley method (see below) and then kind of stalled out. That said, I love the idea of these little field kits for painting.


The height of the author’s sketching ability.


The exact wording of this suggestion was actually, “Extremely expensive optics,” but you get the idea. While you may not want to shell out thousands of dollars for top-end optics, there are plenty of options out there that perform exceptionally well with much more reasonable price tags. And although most young birders do have binoculars, a lot of them don’t have a spotting scope. Consider a solid, entry-level scope and tripod or an upgrade on binoculars for the young birder in your life.

Jennie’s Pick: The good folks at Eagle Optics want to help you find the right optics for your budget. Check out their website for fantastic optics buying tips and suggestions.

Photography Equipment

Photography can be very, very expensive, but if your young birder enjoys it, there are some nice ideas for gifts that won’t totally break the bank (unless you are into breaking the bank, in which case have at it!) Lens cleaning kits, a new camera strap, a memory card, or a digiscoping adapter all make great presents. In the latest Birder’s Guide To Gear there are several excellent articles about photography and digiscoping with plenty of gift ideas.

Jennie’s Pick: I recently needed to replace my point-and-shoot camera after an unfortunate incident involving sand and the Gulf of California. I eventually decided on the Canon PowerShot SX50 HS. Overall, I have been really happy with it. It’s a great hybrid for someone like me, who likes to take pictures of both people and birds without having to swap out lenses or carry a ton of equipment. While it’s not perfect for taking pictures of things that move quickly, if the bird sits relatively still, the 50x zoom is truly spectacular. If you add the digital zoom, you can really get some pretty amazing shots.

Horned Lark at Pawnee National Grasslands, Colorado. (Photo by Jennie Duberstein)

Horned Lark at Pawnee National Grasslands,Colorado, taken with Canon PowerShot SX50HS. (Photo by Jennie Duberstein)


There are so many fantastic apps for smart phones and tablets that I could dedicate this entire blog post to just listing them. From field guides to keeping track of what you’ve seen and uploading it to eBird, there’s an app for that.

Jennie’s Pick: I love the Larkwire app. LOVE it. This game-based system for learning and mastering bird sounds is designed for both beginners and advanced birders. I have both the landbird and waterbird versions on my phone and use them to brush up on my bird sound ID skills whenever I have a spare minute. And if you’ve been with me in the field, it is apparent that I clearly don’t have enough spare minutes, because bird sound identification skills are something I am eternally in need of improving…

Clothing/Field Gear

As with books, there is no shortage to field gear/clothing for the birder. From socks to keep your feet warm while searching for Snowy Owls to gaiters to help you keep dirt, water, pebbles and snow outside of your shoes, there are all kinds of great gadgets to improve the birding experience. Rite in the Rain field notebooks are always a good bet. A stainless steel water bottle will help keep your young birder hydrated while in the field. A headlamp with red light mode works great for owling and night birding. Shameless plug: ABA logo wear is always nice!

Jennie’s Pick: One of the more innovative things that I’ve seen lately is the Lowepro Field Station Beltpack. In the picture below Rafael Galvez, Leica Birding Team Member and Director of the Florida Keys Hawkwatch, demonstrates how he uses it for plein air painting, but this would also be great for someone doing field work or just going out birding for the day. It’s got plenty of room for binoculars, a field guide, your field notebook, and more. It also has a slick little shelf that you can easily pull out to set your field guide or data sheet on (or in Rafael’s case, his sketch pad) so you have a mini-table right there in the field. The “quick-shelf” even includes straps to securely hold an iPad or tablet in place. I don’t own one of these myself, but I’ve gotten to play around with them a bit and they sure look neat. (You know, in case you are also looking for a present for the Jennie in your life).


Rafael Galvez sketching at Everglades National Park with his Lowepro Field Station Beltpack. He found it impressively compact, yet practical. It had room for a water container and brushes, a surface to prop-up a paint set, and the “quick-shelf” to slide a sketch pad in and out.

What ideas do you have for presents for young birders? Share your thoughts in the comments below.