Birds are among the most challenging subjects to capture well with a camera. In spite of this fact—or perhaps because of it, bird photography has a gigantic, dedicated following. The suggestions that follow are for photographers who already have the major purchases (camera, lens, tripod, binoculars) covered. However, if you REALLY want to impress your gift recipient, check out the links above for guidance on choosing these important tools. Whether you are shopping for a budding naturalist or a seasoned ornithologist, B&H has just the right purchase for all of the bird photographers on your list.
Read All About It: Field Guides and References
Birdwatching is a lot more fun when you know what you are watching. David Allen Sibley is an icon in the world of birding, and any book with his name should be at the top your favorite birder’s wish list. For an introduction to the study of birds, consider Sibley’s Birding Basics, which covers behavior, and anatomy, taxonomy, among many other topics in an easy-to-understand manner.
A birdwatcher can never have too many field guides. The Sibley Guide to Birds will serve as a handy reference for identifying North American birds. For a condensed version focused on species east of the Rocky Mountains, grab Sibley Birds East or Birds of North America: Eastern Region. The best birders know the avian world like the back of their hand. How do they do it? Practice. Sibley Guides Backyard Birding Flashcards provide color illustrations as well as habitat information and behavioral descriptions for 100 common species of North American birds so that you can learn them like the back of—a card. For photo-specific information, Backyard Bird Photography by Mathew Tekulsky and Mastering Bird Photography, by Marie Read are accessible guides for beginners. In addition to providing tips on composition and technique, Tekulsky also discusses how to best build a garden with bird photography in mind.
Fully Automatic: Bird Feeder and Trail Cameras
Making compelling photographs of birds is all about being in the right place at the right time. One way to keep track of which types of wildlife are in your area is by setting up a trail camera. There are many choices available, spanning price points depending on the quality of image, video features, power source, and other options incorporated into your setup. While trail cameras are unlikely to get you into the pages of National Geographic, they do provide an extra set of "eyes" to keep tabs on the types of birds in an area.
Dress the Part: Photo Gloves, Vests, and Harnesses
If your birder lives in a climate where the temperature gets cold, photo gloves are a gift that keeps giving. There is nothing worse than losing feeling in your extremities—and missing a shot because your fingers have turned into icicles. The key feature to look for is the ability to flip the tips of the gloves back for greater dexterity. This allows your fingertips to recover quickly when not shooting. Hand warmers provide an alternative (or supplementary) means of maintaining sensation in your fingertips in cold weather.
Another way to layer up and stay warm, with the added benefit of keeping your gear in arm’s reach is with a photo vest. There are many vests to choose from with different options for pockets, D-rings, and interior padding. Combine a vest with a camera harness system for extra versatility when working in the field.
Blending In: Skins and Blinds
Lens skins offer a great way to protect gear from dirt and scratches, as well as to help cameras blend into their environment. Unless you are shooting in a snowstorm, the ubiquitous off-white telephoto zoom is a dead giveaway to shy birds. Take a peak in your birder's bag and grab a custom-fitted camouflage lens skin to give him or her the extra advantage of blending in with the environment. If you really want to help your gift recipient fit in, a photo blind takes this desire to the extreme. This versatile accessory is also great for hiding from in-laws, scaring neighborhood kids, and wearing to fashion shows.
Stock Up on Essentials: Batteries and Memory Cards
No photographer ever complained of having too many batteries or too many memory cards. These are the easiest gifts you can give to any photographer—but especially those who spend a lot of time outside away from electricity and computers. First, find out your photographer's camera, then search B&H's site for the correct battery and type of memory storage. If you are feeling extra generous, you might consider a battery grip, which can double battery capacity and often boost performance.
Still haven’t found the perfect gift? Try catching up on some of the bird photography-oriented articles on Explora for further inspiration. Start with Brian Zwiebel’s articles on winter bird photography, Part 1 and Part 2. While you’re at it, see what Brian has to say about exposure modes for bird photography, as well. Finally, check out his own gift guide for bird and wildlife photographers.
If your gift recipient is a backyard birder, check out these tips for attracting wildlife close to home. Also, The B&H Photography Podcast has touched on the subject in this episode. Finally, some of the best gifts are memories that last well beyond the holiday season. Consider planning a getaway to a birding hotspot. Explora has guides for the eastern, central, and western United States. A rundown of winter hot spots can be read here.
Are you a bird photographer? What gift would you most like to receive? Let us know in the Comments section, below!