A 2021 Gift Guide For Birders

A totally non-comprehensive list of stuff for the bird-inclined

Jer Thorp
7 min readNov 10, 2021

If you have birder in your life and you yourself are not a birder, you might be starting to sweat a little. It’s a high-risk proposal to pick a gift for someone who’s really into something that you’re not really into. Here’s a list of suggestions that might just help you out…


This is an area where gift-givers can really shine, if their birder is a bit of a beginner, or if they have a pair of Clinton era binoculars that they might be too sheepish or too stubborn to replace. Optics in binoculars have really improved over the last few years, and you can spend $200 or so to get a pair of binoculars equivalent to what you’d have spend a grand on in the year 2000.

The Pretty Good Option: Celestron 8x42 Nature DX ED Binoculars ($179)

These are a super choice for beginners who don’t have binos, or for people who have a pair that don’t have Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) glass. ED used to be a marker of very expensive binoculars, but it comes (reasonably) cheap. Simplifying a lot of physics and ignoring diagrams with little arrows, ED glass makes the image brighter and the colours more true-to-life. These feel very good for a low-cost pair and while I don’t own them myself I’ve tried them out and many of my birder friends use them every day.

The Pretty Great Option: Vortex Viper 8x42 HD Binoculars ($489)

Why spend $300 more on a pair of binoculars that have more or less the same features? The secret is all in the build. These are the binoculars that I use. They are extremely solid, fully waterproof, and carry a warranty that covers quite literally everything. I am getting a warm feeling just thinking about these binoculars.

Giant Categorical Caveat: Binoculars are personal things. Peoples eyes are different and our hands are different and yes of course…



Jer Thorp

Jer Thorp is an artist, writer & teacher. He is Innovator-in-Residence at the Library of Congress. His book Living in Data is out now from MCDxFSG.