Birdwatching has established itself as a very popular hobby, although the word hobby perhaps does not do justice to the seriousness and dedication of the people who pursue it. It’s a hobby that requires intense patience and more high-tech gear than you might find on a sports field!
Because when you are tracking birds, keeping a respectful distance when observing them is crucial so as not to disturb them in their natural habitat or ruin that all-important photograph.
This is where digital telescopes come in extremely useful. They are fantastic tools not just for birdwatching, but for wildlife observation and gazing at the constellations in the night sky with crystal clarity.
These are a step above your average pair of binoculars, mainly owing to the magnification, which is like no other optic device out there!
With these telescopes, you can also practice what birdwatchers call ‘digiscoping’, which is where you rig up a powerful camera with a long-range lens to your telescope, so you can achieve those amazing high def bird shots from a long distance.
But where can you find the best birdwatching telescopes? What features and materials should a birdwatching telescope be made out of to give you the best views imaginable? How much can you be expected to pay for a decent bird watching telescope in terms of price?
Well, bird-fanciers the world over need not worry about these questions anymore, because we’ve got a list of some of the best telescopes for birdwatching currently available on the market.
We’ve also got a buyer’s guide that will help you know what to look for when shopping for your next birdwatching telescope as well as some frequently asked questions.
OUR TOP PICK
Our first birdwatching telescope certainly matches its namesake.
It’s a compact and extremely portable telescope, but one that certainly packs a punch in terms of magnification.
It is a great birdwatching accessory if you’re traveling across the country in search of birds, it certainly won’t contribute too much weight to your gear bag - introducing the Celestron Hummingbird 9-27x56mm ED Micro Spotting Scope.
On the lowest setting of 9x magnification, you can use this telescope in much the same way as a pair of binoculars, making it the perfect unit for casual as well as serious birdwatchers.
This telescope will easily fit into your jacket pocket, meaning that you can grab your tripod and get out there to do some serious birdwatching in no time at all.
This is one of the most versatile telescopes on this list, adaptable to a tripod, monopod and window mount.
The last two options enable you to get established with your telescope quickly, which is often very important when you’re needing to get a good view or photograph a rare bird before they fly away.
- Portable - this unit can be stowed away anywhere, and won’t contribute any significant weight to your gear bag.
- You can adapt this device to many different types of stabilizers, which is not only crucial for the clear and still shot but is also important for setting up shots quickly and efficiently.
- This telescope is waterproof and highly weatherproof, so you won’t have to worry about your lens being obscured or outer damage to the casing when out in the brutal scrub.
- This is adaptable for digiscoping if you plan on taking pictures of your favorite breeds of feathered friends.
- This has a smaller magnification range than some of the other telescopes on this list, which might frustrate die-hard bird watchers who want that extra range.
Our next spotting scope is extremely durable, with an armored body that is rainproof and gives the person wielding it a very secure grip.
When out in variable conditions, it’s very important to have something that you can count on, that won’t give you blurred vision during those few seconds you have to take your shot - introducing the Pentax PF-80ED-A 80mm Waterproof Angled Spotting Scope.
The image in the viewfinder of this telescope is very bright and clear, able to operate in low lighting conditions such as dawn and dusk.
The inside of this lens has been nitrogen-purged to prevent moisture and fogging, which are often problems when you’re operating in humid conditions.
This is a very reasonably priced unit, making it perfect for those casual or beginner telescopes who are working to a budget.
Often one of the more off-putting things about hobbies that require a lot of tech is the amount the equipment costs.
This is important for beginners who are unsure about whether they want to dedicate more time and money to this hobby.
- The armoring of this telescope’s body - this unit will be able to withstand a lot of the high impacts that you can experience when out on the trail.
- It is both water and weatherproof, and with its nitrogen-purged technology, you can be certain that it won't accumulate moisture on the inside or the outside.
- The magnification on this unit is very impressive, allowing you to capture those fast-moving birds with clarity.
- This telescope is relatively inexpensive, although you will have to factor in the cost of an additional earpiece.
- Add this telescope to the cost of an eyepiece and the whole thing amounts to a model that is a lot more expensive than other brands.
Our next telescope has a great price range, being both adaptable to bird spotting as well as tracking stars and constellations in the night sky.
The great claim of this telescope is the fact that the manufacturer has claimed to have reduced the overall unit weight by 14%, making it the perfect telescope for exploring or camping - introducing the Celestron Regal M2 65ED Spotting Scope.
This telescope comes with a dual-focus mechanism that allows you to get your target into focus at twice the speed of a regular telescope.
This is essential if you need to align your target for a photograph before it flies away.
The outer casing of this telescope is in magnesium alloy, so you can be sure that it will be able to withstand all the knocks and scrapes that the great outdoors has to throw at it.
It also has an Extra Low Dispersion glass, which means that it will not succumb to fogging or moisture droplets in humid, wet circumstances.
- Durability - this telescope is amongst the most resilient on this list, with a magnesium alloy body that is specifically designed to be able to withstand the scrapes and bangs of the outside world.
- Waterproof elements both inside and outside the casing will give you that solid dry experience as well as a keener sight that won’t experience fogging.
- You can attach most DSLR cameras to this lens, allowing you to line it up and focus on your animal before taking that crucial shot.
- The dual-focus allows you to capture images of smaller, quicker moving birds, which is a massive incentive for bird spotters.
- The weight - at over 1kg, this is one of the heaviest telescopes on this list. This might deter camping photographers or bird spotters who will already be lugging a lot of equipment across vast distances.
Next up we have a lens manufactured by the well-known brand Nikon, which judging from the hundreds of positive reviews this lens has received, are still producing quality optics for bird spotters, hunters and stargazers alike.
This one has a 50mm objective lens and is already optimized for digiscoping - introducing the FieldScope ED 50 Straight Body Spotting Scope.
This scope comes with an impressively sized lens, with a nitrogen-filled construction that has built-in waterproof technology that makes it perfect for lakeside or river bird watching.
You won’t have to worry about wading out into the water to get a better vantage point, as this scope will be able to withstand complete water submersion.
This has a multicoated lens that allows for the widest transmission of light from your lens to your eye.
This will be very important when you’re operating in low light conditions, especially if you’re a photographer, giving you those high-resolution images.
- Waterproof - this telescope is very resistant to water immersion, perfect for use in a particularly waterlogged hideout.
- You can attain crystal clear images with this telescope, the wide aperture of the lens allowing in the maximum level of light, giving you that true color, high-resolution representation of the images.
- This telescope is particularly adaptable to digiscoping, giving you the ability to affix your camera firmly to the tripod and then take as many still photographs as you want, secure in the knowledge that they won’t be blurry.
- This telescope is very lightweight, making it perfect for campers who expect to be carrying a lot of gear but don’t necessarily want to load their pack down with too much equipment.
- The objective lens in this telescope is a lot smaller than some of the other models on this list.
Our final telescope for birdwatchers certainly isn’t the worst, with a maximum 60x magnification, you can be sure of tracking all your favorite species of bird from an astronomical distance.
The objective lens is also very impressive, coming in at 85mm in length, it has HD elements, making it an ideal accompaniment to a digital photographer - introducing the Vortex Optics Viper HD Spotting Scope.
The design of this scope is angled at 45 degrees, coupled with the HD glass, you can expect the highest quality color fidelity for your subject.
This will be very important when trying to replicate those colors in your DSLR camera.
You have great light transmission and sharpness from one corner of the screen to another.
This telescope is fog and waterproof, meaning you can take it out in most conditions and will not experience any damage to the inside of the lens.
It has a very speedy and precise focusing system, coming with a dual focus, that is ideal for trying to capture fast-moving subjects in low lighting or adverse weather conditions.
- This telescope is resistant to both fog and water, so you can take it out on the lake or through dense forest and not have to worry about your lens not working or the terrain damaging your casing.
- The manufacturer has given you a lifetime warranty with this telescope, showing that they have the utmost faith in their product.
- The magnification - at 60x, you can’t get much better when it comes to getting a distant target in your sights.
- The HD components in the glass are great for replicating that true color, which is very important if you are mounting a camera on top and want to achieve those same rich tones in your images.
- The price - with a wide range of state-of-the-art features comes a very hefty price, which might deter the more casual photographer.
- The weight - this is one of the heavier options on this list, which might not make it a great option for users who plan on lugging their gear across large distances.
When it comes to picking out the right scope for your bird watching, you’ll need to consider the intensity and regularity of your hobby.
If you are a casual bird watcher who does it no more than a few times a week, then you might not want to spend the extra few hundred dollars on the more state-of-the-art features.
If you’re a photographer who intends to use their camera for digiscoping, then you’ll want to make sure that your telescope is particularly adaptable to this function.
Make sure that the telescope accurately matches the settings on your camera so you won’t have an image that is worse than that in your telescope lens.
Is Your Lens Straight Or Angled?
Most of these spotting scopes either come with a straight or an angled lens. Determining which one you need will be important in achieving the images you desire.
A straight-angled scope has its body and eyepiece at the same optical plane, which allows you to look straight at the subject without any reflection.
However, if you have an angled eyepiece, then this means that you’ll be looking at the subject from a 45-degree angle, which will help if you are squatting or lying on the ground. If you’re planning to rough it in more variable terrain, you might want to opt for a lens of this type.
An angled lens also helps taller users and avoids them having to crane their neck downwards repeatedly, which will probably lead to injury.
What Is The Range Of Your Telescope’s Magnification?
Spotting scopes have specifications that traditionally come in 3 numbers, the first two indicating the magnification range and the third the size of the front lens.
That means that a 14-45x60 telescope has a front lens of 60mm and a magnification range that extends from 14x to 45x.
If you have a larger lens, then you can expect a larger and more detailed image, whereas if you have a higher magnification then you can use it for a broader range of subjects. This will suit bird spotters who want to track more varied types of birds.
Can You Take Pictures With Your Telescope?
You have to remember that most telescopes are not designed for taking pictures, rather for simply observing. Only a true camera lens will be able to give you the most accurate and clearer picture out in the field.
You’ll need a telescope that works well with your camera, with internal zoom mechanisms that work a lot better than external ones.
You should also get a larger objective telescope lens as more light gets into the aperture and you can get a faster shutter speed on your camera.
Frequently Asked Questions
How Important Is A Good Tripod?
A tripod is essential for bird spotting, as they give you a completely still center with which you can work around.
Remember, the more you magnify an object then the greater the amount of precision will have to be. This means that a solid base will be essential for magnifying things at a great distance.
You will also have to factor a tripod in with the price of your telescope. So if you have a tighter budget, you might want to opt for a cheaper telescope to accommodate the price of a tripod or monopod.
Having a monopod will give you a lot more freedom of movement, which is important if you are tracking fast-moving birds.
How Much Should You Pay For A Bird Watching Telescope?
A decent starting price for your bird spotting telescope will probably be around $200, adding an extra $100 for an eyepiece. Adding more accessories like a tripod and a carry case will also boost the final price of your telescope.
If you take your bird spotting seriously and are willing to spend over $500, then you will be able to get one of the best models on the market with everything you need for long and short-distance tracking.