Shopping for optics for a young, budding bird watcher comes with its own unique set of challenges. Do you choose very inexpensive optics so that you don’t worry about them breaking, or do you spend a little more to give a beginner the good views he or she will need to identify birds for the first time? What size and magnification are most appropriate for a young person just getting started?
The stakes are high—choose wisely, and you can help introduce the wonders of nature and birds to an interested young mind. Choose poorly, and you could end up wasting your money, and worse, frustrating and discouraging a young enthusiast.
We sat down with Ben Lizdas, optics guru and longtime sales manager at Eagle Optics, and asked him to break down the optics-buying process of helping to match young bird watchers with the most appropriate optics to help them dive into bird watching.
For more than two decades, Eagle Optics has been helping birders make good decisions regarding optics. They’ve heard every question and have learned how to successfully match folks up with the models best suited to meet their needs—including young people just starting out.
Overall, the most important feature to consider for young birders is ease of use. The binoculars should be mechanically simple, sit well in the hand, and be easy to get on the bird. For kids, aim for a wider field of view and lower power. “Six- or 7-power is great for kids,” says Lizdas. The wider field of view will make it easier for younger folks to find birds.
“This idea that kids, being small, should have smaller binoculars should be avoided,” says Lizdas. “[With compact binoculars] they’re going to have a difficult time seeing really good color and discerning field marks. I would say a 30 or 32mm binocular is ideal for kids.”
Lizdas also advises against buying very inexpensive, low-quality optics out of fear that a child will quickly break them. “I don’t know of any $50 binoculars that will last more than a month in the hands of a kid,” he says. “If you spend a little more and get some decent optics, Johnny shouldn’t be able to break them.” You can typically find a nice pair of binoculars between $80 and $130 that are suitable for a young, budding bird watcher.