For the Birds Radio Program: Gift Ideas for Birdwatchers, 1987

Original Air Date: Dec. 4, 1987

Laura has some suggestions for gift buying this year.

Audio missing


Christmas Gift Ideas

(Recording of the Chipmunks)

Of all the people in the world, birders are probably the easiest to buy presents for. Good bird books, records, stationery, artwork, and journals are plentiful and run from pleasantly inexpensive to sinfully pricey.

On the cheap end of the spectrum, you can give the bird lover in your life a new field guide. The best, National Geographic’s Field Guide to the Birds of North America, is not available at commercial book stores, but it can be found in non-profit university and museum book stores or you can get it by mail from the National Geographic Society. This guide was just revised a few months ago, so you probably don’t have to worry about giving a hard core birder something he or she already has–birders tend to want every edition of every bird book they can get ahold of. Peterson’s field guide and the golden guide are also fine books available for less than $15.00, or you can spend $40 for the 3-volume Audubon Master Guide to Birding.

The Audubon Society photographic field guides, on the other hand, the green and red ones with vinyl covers, are terrible–I don’t know why book stores still stock them. They have a lot of good information, but it’s so poorly organized that it’s virtually impossible to find a bird in them unless you look it up in the index first–and to do that you need to already know what species and even what sex it is. Don’t buy the new little Peterson beginning guide either, except maybe for very small children–it’s missing too many common birds to be of much use at all.

Minnesota birders should definitely have Bob Janssen’s new book, Birds in Minnesota, published by the University of Minnesota Press. Unfortunately, many local bookstores haven’t even heard of it. Oddly, the new Peterson field guide to Hawks isn’t available at most Duluth bookstores either, even though this is the Hawk Capital of the midwest.

If you want to buy binoculars for yourself or someone else, be careful and don’t imagine that a camera store salesman knows how to evaluate field glasses for birding. Binoculars are always described by two numbers, say 8x40. The first number is the magnification power. In just about all cases it’s best to get 7 or 8 power. Zoom glasses are fun to play with, but they are heavier and their optics are poorer than fixed power glasses. There are lots of other things to consider when choosing binocs, so if you want some suggestions, please write to me in care of KUMD, 130 Humanities Building, University of Minnesota, Duluth, 55812.

If you want to spend a major fortune, you might get hold of Henry Roberts’ Birds of Minnesota. It’s two volumes, and has been out of print for many years. When a set is unearthed, it usually goes for over a hundred dollars. I’m searching for Birds of Minnesota myself, so if you know where it can be found cheap, either snap it up yourself or let me know.

Records, coffee table books, and bird paintings are always good gift ideas. For the birder with a sense of humor, you can always give a loon call. Any Far Side book by Gary Larsen is sure to have some hilarious avian cartoons, and for birders with an even more morbid sense of humor you can give Flattened Fauna, by Roger Knutson. Stay away from loon wind socks unless you want a lecture about the inability of loons to walk on land. And plastic lawn flamingoes are a no-no, too. If you get desperate, you can alawys resort to buying..


That was David Seville and the Chipmunks, this is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”