It’s that time of year again, when everyone realizes Christmas is just a few weeks away, and they haven’t bought a gift for the hardest person to buy for on their list…the birder. This year, Nemesis Bird is featuring a few typical “bird-themed” gifts, and some great birding books that came out in 2017. Our 2017 list also contains some gear choices for people on the go (birders!), and some options for those who may have enough “stuff” but still want to contribute to conservation and research.
Be forewarned that most birders have their ideal “set-up” for optics and cameras, so if you are opting for these pricier choices, it is best to either give cash (who doesn’t love cash?) or speak directly with your birder to find out what their heart really desires (spoiler alert, you probably can’t afford it, because neither can we).
If you can’t find a suitable option on this list, check out our suggestions from previous years: 2010, 2012, 2015
Bird books, new in 2017
The best place to start when it comes to buying gifts for birders is their personal library. Do your best sleuth-work to find out if they have the following books before purchasing:
The Australian Bird Guide: This was Drew’s first pick for must-have bird books of the year. While Australia seems like a far-off magical land to most people, birders dream of going there and probably actually will at least once in their lifetime. Give them a head start on their trip!
The New Neotropical Companion: Another pick from Drew, this book is more of a coffee table reader than a field guide. It focuses on the diversity and ecosystems of the tropics. Admittedly, the neotropics are a bit more accessible to birders than Australia (very accessible and affordable, in fact).
Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern North America: This is a book for advanced birders trying to up their ear-birding game. What makes this book unique are actual spectrograms of bird sounds (along with excellent verbal descriptions), useful for those birders that recreationally record bird sounds. After trying to separate a few migrant longspur species in the midwest this fall, this book easily makes my 2017 list.
Raptors of Mexico and Central America: Honestly, I could go on and on with all the great birding books that came out in 2017. This book filled the much-needed gap for an inclusive field guide for neotropical raptors. The Orange-breasted Falcon on the cover speaks for itself and makes me want to immediately book another trip to Belize.
Bird-themed coloring books
A great way to learn birds is by sketching them. However, some (most?) of us just don’t possess this advanced skill on a level that we’d share with anyone else. Enter bird-themed coloring books! A few years ago I was one of the many adults to be over-joyed by the trend of adult coloring books. I was even happier when I found the plethora of bird-themed options, typically widely available at Barnes and Noble. These range anywhere from classic Audubon plates, to the more abstract, to actual coloring-field guides with tips for identification (Sibley and Peterson). The Audubon themed coloring books give you side-by-side pages of complete plates to use as examples, which really helps you see those field marks that you may have been overlooking in the field all this time… (I have not personally used the Sibley or Peterson coloring books, but I have no doubt that the people who have created our birding bibles made thrilling coloring books).
Charley Harper themed puzzles and gifts
Most birders love the modern geometric art of Charley Harper. There are many options for Charley Harper-themed gifts, but I’d highly suggest the Charley Harper puzzle series by “Pomegranate” puzzles. They range in price from $14.98 (for the Monteverde puzzle) to $22.80 (the Alpine Northwest). Other options include the Rocky Mountains, the California Desert, and the Sierra Range, with both region-specific bird and mammal species! These are widely available on Amazon.
“Sticking” with the CharleyHarper theme, Amazon is also offering this Charlie Harper wall decor sticker set, including stickers of 26 species of birds, and 32 accessory stickers. These stickers could really liven up a living space in the doldrums of winter, and the puzzles could really help you pass away the long winter hours (although we are having a great winter for northern species, from Gray-crowned Rosy Finch and Redpoll in Montana, to Snowy Owls packing in over northern and mid latitudes).
Along the same lines of winter crafting, check out this line of yarn that has been died to match the color themes of specific species of birds, by Songbird Yard and Fibres! The crafting possibilities here are endless. I’d suggest making millions of these tiny little DIY yarn birds out of it.
Lego makes a Bird Model Kit that results in the creation of three bird species: Blue Jay, European Robin, and Mexican Violetear. This option is admittedly hard to find (discontinued), and not quite budget-friendly, but it is awesome; I bought a set last year for my nephew and the resulting creations were very cool. The target age is 12-15 years old but I’d correct that to 7-99 years.
Or, be creative and get some example ideas from these books of Lego bird designs: Birds from Bricks: Amazing Lego designs that take flight or Beautiful Lego 3: Wild! (the latter of which is generally nature-themed and not specifically bird-themed)
LensCoat camera accesories
If your birder already has their ideal camera set-up, help them protect it by ordering a LensCoat brand silicone cover for their specific model (many options!). I am pretty rough on my gear, so these help out a lot. Check out a summary video from LensCoat for more about their products.
While I did say that generally, buying optics for a birder isn’t a great idea, there is one exception, when it comes to image-stabilized binoculars. They work in the same way that image-stabilized cameras work, completely getting rid of hand-shake. While they take a little while to get used to (the grip is bulky and not quite intuitive, and they are on the heavy-side), they really up your hawk-watching game by helping you spot more distant raptors. These can also be used for sea-watching (I used them to survey seaside cliffs from a boat on the Channel Islands for Peregrine Falcon fledglings). While these are not typically great for continual use or warbler-watching in close quarters, there are many birding scenarios where they are beneficial. I am partial to this 10×42 pair by Canon.
itunes gift card
There are an endless number of birding apps available for smart phones. Since you can’t really buy an app for someone, you can instead get them an itunes gift card (opt for the email delivery for a “no waste” gift option).
Travel coffee mugs (field-tested to keep coffee hot!)
Birders are on the go A LOT. We bird in all conditions, including terrible wind and cold in the winter (maybe not this year, depending on where you live). Keeping warm is KEY when birding, and a hot beverage can help. Try out any of the following brand travel mugs for guaranteed hot coffee: Swell, Orca, Drink Tanks (Drink Tanks makes insulated growlers as well, which provides another suitable way to keep warm).
This gift speaks for itself; I used these heated insoles by Therma-cell last winter in Montana to battle cold toes in negative temperatures. This set is rechargeable by USB, and controllable by remote. Make sure to get the right size (cut to size from small, medium, large). On low, the insoles can keep your feet TOASTY warm for a few hours. My only caution here is that these are thick, so they need to be used in over-sized boots that have a lot of space for them. Also, these are better for more stationary birding situations (like hawk watching), or in quick bursts of heat as needed, otherwise it is easy to get overheated sweaty feet (not a good gift).
Wildlife-themed gifts from local wildlife area welcome centers and gift stores
Another great option for Christmas gifts is to visit your local National Wildlife Refuge or state park welcome center, which often contain a gift store, with proceeds directly benefitting your local wildlife areas. These are great places to check out and stock up on local field guides, t-shirts, and outdoor-themed gifts for both adults and children. I often pass the Fort Hay’s State University Wetlands Education Center near Great Bend, Kansas, which has a variety of wildlife-themed gifts, including a Great Horned Owl shirt that glows in the dark (you need it).
If your birder argues that they have enough “stuff,” do not fret, as there are still some great options!
National Park pass
Our National parks and monuments are under new and seemingly constant threats, so the time to visit them and show your support is NOW (or yesterday). Most birders love taking vacations and long trips, so giving them a National Park Pass may give them the motivation they need to take the leap. Just make sure they don’t already have one! Buy a National Park Pass here; they can be bought as gifts, as they are simply signed by the person who will be using them (note the options for seniors and military members, and the deadlines for holiday arrival).
Adopt a species/Gift Donations
Audubon offers a number of donation options that include a small gift, including symbolic “species adoption” (check all options out at the Adoption Center). These species adoption gifts start at $40 and come with the infamous Audubon plush animals that play the appropriate call of the species when squeezed (these exist so that you don’t squeeze real birds). I am obviously partial to the “Bird of Prey” collection. Also check out Gifts for Birds and Bird-Lover gifts.
World Wildlife Fund works all over the globe to help species in need. With a donation of $55 in the form of a symbolic “species adoption”, you can receive an adorable plush animal. I mean, really adorable (there is also a Narwhal). You can also get a “bucket” of 3 plush animals for a $75 donation.
Or, you can shoot for a t-shirt for a donation at the same price level. I am partial to this Blue-footed Booby t-shirt.
If you’d like to support a smaller/local organization, consider a general donation in a loved-ones name to any of the following important organizations, all credible research and conservation groups that are close to the Nemesis Bird Team’s hearts (each with many options and levels of donation):
Southern Sierra Research Station
Hawk Migration Association of North America
Institute for Wildlife Studies
Ned Smith Center for Nature and Art
Intermountain Bird Observatory
Bird Conservancy of the Rockies
Happy Holidays from the Nemesis Bird Team!