Spotting Scopes for Birdwatching: All You Need to Know – Gadgets 360

Arrival of winters is indeed a pleasant emotion for everyone and a bit more for birders, since with fall migration arrives the mesmerising flocks of migratory birds. And every birder emphasises on making the most of it, but for a new birder arises the question, “Do I need a spotting scope?” specifically for waterfowl and shorebirds!

This is a complete self-decisive question — you are the only one to decide if it’s worth the investment. There are various perks and detriments of buying and using a spotting scope, which I will be elaborating here. Also, the question arises here is that whether it is worth investing on a spotting scope at this point of time. Let’s first begin with understanding what exactly is a spotting scope and how it works.

What is a spotting scope? What can it do for me?

A spotting scope is a compact high-power optimised tool for detailed observation of distant objects. It looks like a small telescope with one eyepiece for observation, instead of two. Unlike handheld binoculars, it always requires a tripod to set it up and obtain maximum stability.

There are a multitude of uses for spotting scopes. It is most commonly used for birdwatching, wildlife viewing, hunting, and astronomy. Regardless of our hobby, the same criteria apply while choosing a spotting scope.

A scope is also used for hunting and astronomy
Photo Credit: Abhisheka Krishnagopal

A binocular has 8×42 or 10×42 magnification, but a spotting scope takes magnification to another level usually starting from 15–20x range while zoomed out to 40–60x when zoomed in. This certainly help us obtain a much clear and better view of any far away subject that we are trying to observe. To begin with, a binocular is always handy, so first get comfortable using it and then should you head towards investing in a spotting scope.


Before going for a spotting scope, one must refine the goals. You must first decide what (birding, hunting) and where (like low light environments), you are going to use it. However, the low light performance can be improved by the use of bigger objective lens, but the size and durability of the scope should be primarily considered. Choosing waterproof units with durable shield is always a bonus.


The main specifications to consider are its magnification and lens diameter. Also, the field-of-view and eye relief should be well-thought-out, specially for glass wearers. A high magnification unit will always require a large objective lens. For example, a 60X magnification unit will need at least 80mm of aperture (60×80). Another aspect to be considered is the type of erecting system, i.e. whether a roof or Porro prism is used.

Considering the varied parameters, here’s a list of scopes convenient to begin your journey with:

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