A young birder taking pictures of birds with his camera.

Best Camera For Bird Watching: 2024 Expert Selections!

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Birdwatching is a captivating hobby that allows us to connect with the natural world and witness the beauty of feathered creatures up close.

As we move into 2024, the market for specialized cameras designed for this pursuit, the best camera for bird watching, continues to evolve, offering avid birders a wide range of options to capture their avian encounters.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore some of the best camera choices that will elevate your birdwatching experiences in the coming year.

Table of Contents

Recommended Cameras for Birdwatching

Nikon COOLPIX P950: The Versatile Powerhouse

The Nikon COOLPIX P950 is a standout choice for birdwatchers seeking a versatile and feature-rich camera. With its impressive 83x optical zoom, this camera allows you to get up close and personal with even the most elusive of birds. The inclusion of a built-in electronic viewfinder and a vari-angle LCD screen further enhances the user experience, making it easy to frame your shots in various lighting conditions. Additionally, the camera’s advanced autofocus system and 4K video capabilities ensure that you can capture stunning, high-quality footage of your feathered subjects.

Pros:

  1. Exceptional Zoom Capability: The COOLPIX P950 boasts an impressive 83x optical zoom lens, allowing you to capture distant subjects with remarkable clarity and detail.
  2. High-Quality Image Sensor: The camera is equipped with a 16.1-megapixel 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor, which delivers excellent image quality, even in low-light conditions.
  3. Impressive Video Capabilities: The P950 can record 4K UHD video at 30fps, providing stunning video footage with excellent detail and clarity.
  4. Intuitive Controls and Handling: The camera’s ergonomic design and user-friendly controls make it easy to navigate and adjust settings on the fly.
  5. Extensive Connectivity Options: The P950 offers a range of connectivity options, including Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and USB-C, allowing for seamless image and video transfer to your devices.

Cons:

  1. Limited Dynamic Range: While the image quality is generally good, the camera’s dynamic range can be somewhat limited, resulting in blown-out highlights or crushed shadows in high-contrast scenes.
  2. Bulky and Heavy Design: The COOLPIX P950 is a relatively large and heavy camera, which may not be the most convenient option for those who prioritize portability.
  3. Limited Manual Controls: While the camera offers a range of shooting modes, the level of manual control may not be as extensive as some enthusiast photographers would prefer.
  4. Short Battery Life: The P950’s battery life is relatively short, especially when using the camera’s advanced features, such as the electronic viewfinder and 4K video recording.

Verdict:

The Nikon COOLPIX P950 is an excellent choice for photographers who prioritize versatility and long-range zoom capabilities. Its impressive image and video quality, coupled with its user-friendly controls, make it a great option for both casual and more experienced users. However, the camera’s limited dynamic range, bulky design, and short battery life may be drawbacks for some users. Overall, the P950 is a solid superzoom camera that offers a compelling balance of features and performance. See the Nikon COOLPIX P950 on Amazon for pricing and reviews.

Canon PowerShot SX70 HS: The Compact Companion

For birdwatchers who value portability without compromising on performance, the Canon PowerShot SX70 HS is an excellent option. Featuring a 65x optical zoom lens, this compact camera packs a powerful punch, allowing you to get up close and personal with your avian subjects. The camera’s advanced image stabilization technology helps to minimize blur, ensuring that your shots remain sharp and clear. Additionally, the inclusion of built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity makes it easy to quickly share your amazing birdwatching photographs with friends and family.

Pros:

  1. Exceptional Zoom Capability: The SX70 HS boasts an impressive 65x optical zoom lens, allowing you to capture distant subjects with remarkable clarity.
  2. High-Quality Images: The camera’s 20.3-megapixel CMOS sensor and DIGIC 8 image processor deliver excellent image quality, with sharp details and vibrant colors.
  3. Versatile Shooting Modes: The SX70 HS offers a wide range of shooting modes, including manual, semi-automatic, and fully automatic, catering to photographers of all skill levels.
  4. Impressive Video Capabilities: The camera can record 4K video at 30fps, providing high-quality footage with minimal distortion.
  5. Responsive Autofocus: The SX70 HS features a fast and accurate autofocus system, ensuring your subjects are always in focus.
  6. Intuitive Controls: The camera’s ergonomic design and user-friendly controls make it easy to navigate and adjust settings on the fly.

Cons:

  1. Limited Low-Light Performance: While the SX70 HS performs well in good lighting conditions, its image quality can suffer in low-light situations.
  2. Battery Life: The camera’s battery life is somewhat limited, especially when using the electronic viewfinder or recording 4K video.
  3. Bulky Design: The SX70 HS is a relatively large and heavy camera, which may not be ideal for those who prioritize portability.
  4. Lack of Touchscreen: The camera’s lack of a touchscreen interface may be a drawback for some users who prefer more intuitive controls.

Verdict:

The Canon PowerShot SX70 HS is an excellent superzoom camera that offers a compelling combination of impressive zoom capabilities, high-quality image and video performance, and a versatile set of features. While it may not be the best choice for low-light photography or those seeking a more compact design, the SX70 HS is a great option for photographers who prioritize versatility and long-range shooting. Its impressive capabilities and user-friendly controls make it a solid choice for both hobbyists and enthusiasts alike. See the Canon PowerShot SX70 HS on Amazon for pricing and reviews.

Sony RX10 IV: The Versatile Superzoom

The Sony RX10 IV is a versatile superzoom camera that is particularly well-suited for birdwatching enthusiasts. With its 24-600mm equivalent lens, this camera offers an impressive focal range that can handle a wide variety of shooting scenarios. The camera’s advanced autofocus system, coupled with its fast continuous shooting speed, make it an excellent choice for capturing the dynamic movements of birds in flight. Additionally, the inclusion of 4K video recording and a high-resolution electronic viewfinder further enhance the overall user experience.

Pros:

  1. Exceptional Image Quality: The RX10 IV is equipped with a 1-inch, 20.1-megapixel Exmor RS CMOS sensor, which delivers excellent image quality with low noise and impressive dynamic range.
  2. Powerful Zoom Lens: The camera features a 24-600mm F2.4-4 Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens, providing an impressive 25x optical zoom range that allows you to capture a wide variety of subjects, from landscapes to wildlife.
  3. Fast Autofocus: The RX10 IV’s hybrid autofocus system, which combines phase-detection and contrast-detection, is incredibly fast and accurate, making it a great choice for capturing moving subjects.
  4. High-Speed Shooting: With a maximum burst rate of 24 frames per second (fps) and a buffer that can handle up to 249 JPEG or 114 RAW images, the RX10 IV is well-suited for capturing fast-paced action.
  5. Robust Build Quality: The camera’s weather-sealed body and magnesium alloy construction provide a durable and reliable shooting experience, even in challenging environments.

Cons:

  1. Hefty Size and Weight: The RX10 IV is a large and heavy camera, which may be a deterrent for some users who prioritize portability.
  2. Limited Customization: While the camera offers a good range of controls and customization options, some users may find the menu system and button layout a bit convoluted.
  3. High Price Point: With a price tag of around $1,700, the RX10 IV is a significant investment, which may price it out of reach for some photographers.

Verdict:

The Sony RX10 IV is a remarkable superzoom camera that delivers exceptional image quality, impressive performance, and a versatile feature set. Its powerful zoom lens, fast autofocus, and high-speed shooting capabilities make it an excellent choice for a wide range of photographic applications, from wildlife and sports to travel and landscape photography. While the camera’s size, weight, and price point may be drawbacks for some users, the RX10 IV’s overall capabilities and image quality make it a compelling option for those seeking a high-end, all-in-one camera solution. See the Sony RX10 IV on Amazon for pricing and reviews.

Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 II: The Balanced Performer

For birdwatchers seeking a well-rounded camera that strikes a balance between performance and affordability, the Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 II is worth considering. This camera boasts a 16x optical zoom lens, providing a versatile focal range that can handle a variety of birdwatching scenarios. The inclusion of a large 1-inch sensor and 4K video recording capabilities ensure that your images and videos will be of exceptional quality. Additionally, the camera’s user-friendly interface and intuitive controls make it an excellent choice for both novice and experienced birdwatchers alike.

Pros:

  1. Excellent Image Quality: The FZ1000 II boasts a 1-inch 20.1MP CMOS sensor that delivers outstanding image quality, with excellent detail, dynamic range, and low-noise performance, even in low-light conditions.
  2. Powerful Zoom Lens: The camera is equipped with a Leica DC Vario-Elmarit lens that offers a versatile 16x optical zoom range, covering focal lengths from 25mm to 400mm (35mm equivalent). This makes it a great choice for a wide variety of shooting scenarios.
  3. Impressive Video Capabilities: The FZ1000 II can record 4K video at 30fps, as well as Full HD video at up to 120fps for slow-motion effects. The video quality is excellent, with accurate colors and good dynamic range.
  4. Responsive and Intuitive Controls: The camera features a well-designed and responsive control layout, with a large electronic viewfinder, a fully articulating touchscreen display, and physical controls for quick access to important settings.
  5. Extensive Connectivity Options: The FZ1000 II offers a range of connectivity options, including Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, allowing you to easily transfer images and videos to your smartphone or tablet.

Cons:

  1. Limited Burst Shooting Speed: While the camera can shoot at up to 12fps, the buffer capacity is relatively limited, which may be a concern for fast-paced action photography.
  2. No Microphone Input: The FZ1000 II lacks a dedicated microphone input, which may be a drawback for those who want to record high-quality audio for their videos.
  3. Relatively Heavy and Bulky: Compared to some other superzoom cameras, the FZ1000 II is on the heavier and bulkier side, which may be a consideration for those who prioritize portability.

Verdict:

The Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 II is an excellent superzoom camera that offers a compelling combination of image quality, versatile zoom range, and advanced video capabilities. While it may not be the most portable option, its impressive performance and feature set make it a great choice for photographers and videographers who need a versatile all-in-one camera. If you’re in the market for a high-quality superzoom camera, the FZ1000 II is definitely worth considering. See the Panasonic LUMIX FZ1000 II on Amazon for pricing and reviews.

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II: The Rugged Companion

For birdwatchers who frequently venture into challenging outdoor environments, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is a rugged and reliable companion. This weather-sealed camera is built to withstand the elements, making it an ideal choice for birding in diverse conditions. The camera’s advanced autofocus system and impressive 60 frames per second continuous shooting speed ensure that you’ll be able to capture sharp, action-packed shots of your feathered subjects. Additionally, the inclusion of in-body image stabilization and a versatile selection of M.Zuiko lenses make the OM-D E-M1 Mark III a well-rounded choice for the discerning birdwatcher.

Pros:

  1. Excellent Image Quality: The camera’s 20.4-megapixel Micro Four Thirds sensor, combined with Olympus’ advanced image processing technology, delivers stunning image quality with excellent detail, dynamic range, and low-light performance.
  2. Robust and Weatherproof Design: The OM-D E-M1 Mark II boasts a durable, dust and splash-proof body, making it an ideal choice for outdoor and adventure photography.
  3. Impressive Autofocus Performance: The camera’s advanced hybrid autofocus system, featuring 121 cross-type AF points, provides fast and accurate focusing, even in challenging conditions.
  4. In-Body Image Stabilization (IBIS): The camera’s 5-axis IBIS system provides up to 7.5 stops of compensation, allowing for sharp handheld shots in low-light situations.
  5. Versatile Shooting Modes: The OM-D E-M1 Mark II offers a wide range of shooting modes, including Pro Capture, Live Composite, and High-Res Shot, which expand the creative possibilities for photographers.

Cons:

  1. Limited Battery Life: The camera’s battery life, while decent, may not be sufficient for extended shooting sessions, especially when using power-hungry features like the electronic viewfinder.
  2. Smaller Sensor Compared to Full-Frame Cameras: The Micro Four Thirds sensor, while capable, may not provide the same level of low-light performance and shallow depth of field as larger full-frame sensors.
  3. Limited Native Lens Selection: While Olympus and Panasonic offer a wide range of Micro Four Thirds lenses, the selection may not be as extensive as the lens lineups for other camera systems.

Verdict:

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is an excellent choice for photographers who value portability, weatherproofing, and advanced features in a compact mirrorless package. Its impressive image quality, autofocus performance, and in-body stabilization make it a versatile camera that can handle a wide range of photographic challenges. While the smaller sensor size and limited battery life may be drawbacks for some users, the OM-D E-M1 Mark II remains a highly capable and compelling option in the mirrorless camera market. See the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II on Amazon for pricing and reviews.

As the world of birdwatching continues to evolve, the camera market has responded with a diverse range of options tailored to the unique needs of this captivating hobby. Whether you’re seeking a versatile superzoom, a compact companion, or a rugged outdoor camera, the cameras highlighted in this guide offer exceptional performance and features to help you capture the perfect shot for your birdwatching adventures.

A young birdwatcher taking pictures of birds in the wild.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Birdwatching Camera

When it comes to birdwatching, having the right camera can make all the difference in capturing stunning and detailed images of your feathered friends. The market for birdwatching cameras is constantly evolving, with new features and technologies emerging to cater to the needs of avid birders. In this section, we’ll explore the key factors to consider when selecting the best camera for your birdwatching adventures.

Lens Versatility

One of the most crucial aspects of a birdwatching camera is the lens. Birdwatchers often need to capture shots of birds in various situations, from distant perches to up-close encounters. Therefore, a camera with a versatile lens or the ability to accommodate different lenses is highly desirable. Look for cameras with interchangeable lenses or powerful optical zooms that can bring distant birds into sharp focus.

Image Quality and Sensor Size

The quality of the images you capture is paramount when it comes to birdwatching. Opt for a camera with a large, high-resolution sensor that can deliver crisp, detailed images, even in low-light conditions or when capturing fast-moving birds. Additionally, consider cameras with advanced image processing capabilities, such as the ability to handle high ISO settings without excessive noise.

Autofocus Performance

Birdwatching often involves capturing subjects that are in motion, so a camera with reliable and responsive autofocus is a must-have. Look for models with advanced autofocus systems that can track and lock onto birds quickly, even in challenging lighting or when the birds are in flight.

Burst Shooting and Shutter Speed

The ability to capture a rapid sequence of images is essential for birdwatching, as it allows you to increase your chances of capturing the perfect shot. Look for cameras with high burst shooting capabilities and fast shutter speeds, which can freeze the action and prevent blurry images.

Connectivity and Sharing

In the digital age, the ability to quickly share your birdwatching photos with others has become increasingly important. Consider cameras with built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity, enabling you to seamlessly transfer and share your images with your smartphone or tablet.

Weatherproofing and Durability

Birdwatching often takes place in various outdoor environments, so a camera that is weather-resistant and durable is a valuable asset. Look for models that are splash-proof, dust-proof, or even freeze-proof, ensuring that your camera can withstand the elements and continue to perform reliably in the field.

Ergonomics and Ease of Use

Consider the overall ergonomics and ease of use of the camera. Look for models that feel comfortable in your hand, with intuitive controls and a user-friendly interface. This will allow you to focus on capturing the perfect shot without being distracted by the camera’s operation.

By considering these key factors, you can find the best camera for your birdwatching needs. Whether you’re an experienced birder or just starting out, the right camera can help you take your photography to new heights and capture the beauty of the feathered creatures you encounter.

Balancing Portability and Image Quality: Top Birdwatching Camera Options

The Portable Powerhouse: Mirrorless Cameras for Birding

When it comes to birdwatching, the camera you choose can make all the difference in capturing those fleeting, breathtaking moments. Balancing portability and image quality is a delicate act, but the latest mirrorless camera technology has made it easier than ever to find the perfect companion for your avian adventures.

Mirrorless Marvels: Compact, Capable, and Cutting-Edge

Mirrorless cameras have gained significant popularity among birdwatchers for their impressive combination of compact size, powerful performance, and advanced features. These innovative devices eschew the bulky mirror mechanism of traditional DSLR cameras, allowing for a sleeker, lighter body that’s a breeze to carry on long hikes or extended observation sessions.

Yet, don’t let their diminutive dimensions fool you – mirrorless cameras pack a serious punch when it comes to image quality. With large, high-resolution sensors and lightning-fast autofocus systems, they can easily keep pace with the rapid movements of birds, delivering stunning, detail-rich shots that will leave your fellow birdwatchers in awe.

Sensor Size Matters: Choosing the Right Mirrorless Camera

When selecting a mirrorless camera for birdwatching, sensor size is a crucial consideration. Larger sensors, such as those found in APS-C or full-frame models, tend to offer better low-light performance, shallower depth of field, and higher dynamic range – all of which can be invaluable when capturing elusive avian subjects in challenging environments.

However, larger sensors also generally equate to larger, heavier camera bodies, which can be a trade-off for some birdwatchers who prioritize portability. Fortunately, many of the latest mirrorless cameras strike an impressive balance, packing high-performance sensors into surprisingly compact and lightweight frames.

Lens Compatibility: Unlocking the Potential

Another key factor to consider when choosing a mirrorless camera for birdwatching is the available lens ecosystem. Look for a system with a wide selection of high-quality, telephoto prime and zoom lenses that can bring distant birds into sharp focus. Many mirrorless camera manufacturers have developed impressive lens lineups tailored specifically for wildlife and nature photography.

Investing in a versatile, high-quality telephoto lens can be a game-changer for birdwatchers, allowing you to capture stunning close-ups of even the most skittish avian subjects. And with the compact size and weight of mirrorless cameras, you can often mount these powerful lenses without sacrificing too much portability.

Cutting-Edge Features for the Discerning Birdwatcher

Modern mirrorless cameras are packed with a wealth of advanced features that can elevate your birdwatching photography to new heights. Look for models with sophisticated autofocus systems capable of tracking fast-moving subjects, high-speed continuous shooting modes, and impressive low-light performance.

Many mirrorless cameras also offer innovative in-camera stabilization systems, which can help counteract the effects of camera shake and ensure razor-sharp images, even when shooting handheld with a telephoto lens. And with the latest advancements in electronic viewfinders (EVFs), you can enjoy a crisp, high-resolution display that rivals the optical viewfinders of traditional DSLRs.

Embracing the Future of Birdwatching Photography

As the technology behind mirrorless cameras continues to evolve, the possibilities for birdwatching enthusiasts have never been more exciting. These compact, capable, and cutting-edge devices offer the perfect balance of portability and image quality, empowering you to capture the beauty of the avian world with stunning clarity and detail.

Whether you’re a seasoned birdwatcher or just starting your avian photography journey, a top-notch mirrorless camera can be the key to unlocking a new level of passion and appreciation for the feathered wonders that grace our skies. So, why not embrace the future of birdwatching photography and let a mirrorless marvel be your guide on your next avian adventure?

A birdwatcher taking pictures of birds with his camera.

Weatherproofing and Durability: Essential Features for Outdoor Photography

When it comes to outdoor photography, the camera equipment you choose can significantly impact the quality and longevity of your images. Weatherproofing and durability are two crucial factors to consider when selecting the best gear for your bird-watching adventures.

Withstanding the Elements: Weatherproof Camera Bodies

Capturing stunning bird portraits requires braving the unpredictable elements of nature. A weatherproof camera body is a must-have feature that ensures your equipment can withstand rain, snow, and other inclement weather conditions. Look for cameras that are sealed against dust and moisture, allowing you to shoot with confidence even in the face of unexpected downpours or snowfall.

Lens Protection: Weatherproof Lens Design

Lenses are equally vulnerable to the elements, and a weatherproof design is essential for outdoor photographers. Look for lenses that feature gasket seals, weather-resistant coatings, and other protective measures that prevent water, dust, and debris from compromising image quality. This will allow you to capture sharp, clear images of your feathered subjects, no matter the weather.

Shock and Impact Resistance

Outdoor photography often involves navigating rugged terrain, and your camera gear needs to be able to withstand the occasional bump or drop. Look for cameras and lenses with robust, impact-resistant construction that can handle the rigors of the great outdoors. Weatherproofing and durability go hand-in-hand, ensuring your equipment can withstand the challenges of bird-watching adventures.

Lens Durability: Scratch-Resistant Coatings

In addition to weatherproofing, scratch-resistant lens coatings are another essential feature for outdoor photography. These coatings help protect the delicate lens elements from scratches, scuffs, and other damage that can occur during use in the field. This helps maintain image quality and extends the lifespan of your lenses, ensuring you can continue capturing breathtaking bird portraits for years to come.

Protecting Your Investment: Weather Seals and Gaskets

The intricate internal components of your camera and lenses are vulnerable to the elements, and a robust weather-sealing system is crucial for protecting your investment. Look for cameras and lenses that feature comprehensive sealing, with gaskets and weather-resistant materials that create a barrier against moisture, dust, and other environmental hazards.

Versatility for All Conditions

The best camera gear for bird-watching needs to be weatherproof, durable, and versatile enough to handle various shooting conditions. This may entail advanced autofocus systems, high-speed burst modes, and excellent low-light performance, enabling you to capture sharp, detailed images of your subjects in any environment.

Maintaining Your Gear: Proper Care and Maintenance

Of course, even the most weatherproof and durable camera gear requires proper care and maintenance to ensure optimal performance and longevity. This includes regularly cleaning and inspecting your equipment, storing it in a dry, climate-controlled environment, and taking precautions to protect it from the elements when in use.

By prioritizing weatherproofing and durability in your camera gear selection, you can ensure that your equipment is up to the task of capturing stunning bird portraits for years to come. With the right combination of weather-resistant features and robust construction, your camera and lenses will be able to withstand the challenges of outdoor photography, helping you create breathtaking images that will last a lifetime.

A birder taking pictures of rare birds.

Low-Light Performance and Advanced Optics

Mastery in Low-Light Conditions

In the world of birdwatching, capturing clear images during low-light periods is crucial. Active bird species often emerge during dawn and dusk, presenting challenges in lighting. Advanced cameras for birdwatching excel in low-light environments, preserving details even in challenging conditions.

Exceptional Optical Zoom

Observing birds from a distance without disturbing their natural behavior is essential in birdwatching. The latest cameras offer exceptional optical zoom capabilities, allowing you to capture detailed shots of elusive avian species. These advanced optics provide an immersive experience, revealing intricate details of bird plumage and behavior.

Lightning-Fast Autofocus

Fast-moving birds require precise autofocus systems to capture sharp images. Modern cameras boast lightning-fast autofocus, ensuring you never miss a moment. With these cutting-edge features, you can freeze the action and capture the graceful flight of birds with stunning clarity.

Seamless Connectivity and Sharing

Sharing birdwatching experiences digitally is now integral to the hobby. Top cameras offer robust connectivity options, enabling instant sharing of breathtaking images. Foster a sense of community and inspire others with the beauty of the avian world.

Exceptional Image Quality and Dynamic Range

Birdwatchers demand exceptional image quality to capture the nuances of their subjects. Cameras feature advanced image sensors and dynamic range capabilities, preserving the true essence of birds. From subtle plumage gradients to vivid colors, these cameras capture every detail.

Robust Weatherproof Design

Birdwatching often occurs in rugged outdoor environments. The best cameras feature weatherproof designs, ensuring reliable performance in any condition. Whether facing sudden downpours or dusty wilderness, these cameras withstand the rigors of nature.

Conclusion

In conclusion, selecting the best camera for birdwatching is essential for capturing the stunning beauty and elusive movements of birds. The top camera options offer features tailored to the demanding needs of birdwatchers, from portability to weatherproofing and low-light performance.

Among the standout recommendations is the Sony Alpha a7R IV, known for its high-resolution sensor, advanced autofocus, and impressive low-light handling. The Nikon D850 is another compelling choice, excelling in delivering stunning detail and dynamic range. Meanwhile, the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III offers portability and user-friendly features, making it ideal for handheld shooting.

With options like the Canon EOS R5 and Panasonic Lumix G9 also available, there’s a camera to suit every birdwatcher’s needs and budget. As you embark on birdwatching adventures, remember that the right camera can elevate your experience, capturing the beauty and diversity of the avian world with every shot.

Author

  • Vince S

    Meet Vince, the passionate founder and author of Learn Bird Watching, boasting 30 years of birding experience. With an unwavering mission to empower fellow bird enthusiasts, Vince shares invaluable wisdom and guidance. As a dedicated moderator and contributor to Quora's Bird Watchers' Club, he actively engages with the birding community, where his insightful answers have garnered over 440,000 views and over 2,670 upvotes. Whether you're a budding birder or a seasoned avian aficionado, his wealth of knowledge is at your service.