The Best Binoculars for Bird Watching

A pair of the best binoculars are a great aid to the art of bird watching, but only if you know how to adjust and focus them correctly for a clear view. Every birdwatcher should know how to care for and efficiently use birding binoculars.

Parts and concepts
Start by learning the parts of the binoculars and the concepts of vision that binoculars deal with. Soon you will find yourself proficient at their use diligent in their cleaning and care.

The distance between your eyes is called the interpupillary distance. The barrels of the binocular must be adjusted closer or further apart so as to fit the distance between your eyes. Hold the binoculars to your eyes and gently move the two lenses closer or further apart to fit your face. After the binoculars are set for your face, you have only to adjust the center focus knob to a clear focus for the distance.

Your vision in each eye is different. Use the diopter knob, usually located near the eyepiece on the right lens (in some models it is on the left barrel). Hold your hand over the right objective lens and then adjust the center focus knob until the image is clear. Next, cover the other objective lens and adjust the center focus knob again to clearness. This is to make up for the difference in your two eyes' vision.

A word of warning
Take care when adjusting the diopter knob, because you can adjust it too far or too harshly, forcing it and causing the eyepiece to break away from the chassis.

Write it down
After you have set the diopter, note the setting so you can set it each time without going through the evaluation process. To read it, look for a small bump on the barrel just where your right thumb should rest. Count the spaces on the knob to the arrow on the eyepiece and jot down this setting.

Helpful hints for sighting with the best binoculars
To aim the binoculars, first find the bird to be observed with your naked eye, then raise the glasses and spot the bird. Looking randomly across the field is a tiring method of sighting. So spot first with your naked eye and then pull the barrels up and adjust the center focus wheel to get a clear view through the binoculars.

Use the helpful rubber eyepiece guardsto protect your eyeglass lens and improve your field of view.

Antidote for tremors
A Porro-style binocular with a wide objective lens is a good birding tool. These binoculars are able to take in enough light to give a clear view in the woods and shaded areas, at sunup and during evening. They're also heavy and hard for most people to hold still. If you tremble, try holding your thumbs under your chin to stabilize yourself.

Tips for cleaning
Be careful with your binoculars. They are as fragile as one of the birds you wish to see. Keep the lens clean with a soft cloth. Use a soft cloth and cotton swabs to keep the barrels and knobs clean. When you are eating, remove the binoculars so crumbs and debris won't cause you to miss out on a great bird sighting.

Protecting your binoculars
A drop or a bump can cause a prism to be jarred out of alignment. Repairs can be very expensive. Protect your binoculars from children, who love to look through them and will inevitably readjust your settings. Children are likely to bump or drop the binoculars, which can break a lens, bend or dent a barrel or dislodge a prism. If possible, invest in a pair or two of children's binoculars so you can share the adventure without jeopardizing your good glasses.

In the field
Use a field vestin the field to carry your binoculars. Always store your binoculars in the protective carrying case when not in use or when you are carrying or in the car.

Some birding books that have good instructions for the best binocular use:

  • Birding, A Nature Company Guide published by Time-Life Books
  • The Everything Bird Book By Tershia d'Elgin, Adams Media 1998
  • Focus on Birdwatching By Rob Hume, Hamlyn Children's Books /Reed Int. 1992

Question of the day:

What is monocular vision?

Most birds have monocular vision, which explains why a bird will stop and turn his head to look at something. Each eye can be worked independently of the other. The eye is located high on the side of the head on most birds, so to focus clearly, the bird must cock his head. Now it's time to buy the best binoculars and start bird watching. 

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