For people who enjoy birding and watching birds, a spotting scope is a must-have.
This is why:
Binoculars are convenient to carry around your neck, but their magnification only allows you to get close to the action.
This issue can be solved with the use of a good spotting scope. It will allow you to see fine details of birds that are otherwise impossible to see with binoculars.
Have you ever looked into purchasing a birding spotting scope?
Finding a scope that meets the specific needs of birders has proven to be difficult for me.
This is because spotting scopes are designed for a variety of uses other than bird watching, such as hunting and stargazing.
However, regardless of your budget, this article will assist you in finding a spotting scope that is ideal for bird watching.
50+ Unique Bird Watching Gifts for Bird Lovers (Related Reading)
The Platinum Class (Over $2,500): The 9 Best Binoculars for Bird Watching
The three scopes listed below are the best money can buy! If you have no restrictions on your spending, choose one of these and call it a day.
Spotting Scopes for Bird Watching Overview
By price range, the following are some of the best bird watching spotting scopes for 2021.
deciding on spotting scopes for bird watching
A Birding Spotting Scope for Less Than $100 is a no-no!
Just one more thing before we get started…
I implore you not to purchase a spotting scope for birding for less than $100.
They’ll make your eyes hurt and, even worse, cause you a lot of frustration.
Don’t buy a cheap spotting scope for bird watching.
Cheap scopes are fine for looking at an elephant from a distance of 100 yards or seeing 22 cal bullet holes in a paper target at the range, but they are not designed for bird watching.
Instead of using a scope like this, you should just look through your binoculars.
Someone who just wants to look at backyard birds from their deck and/or take photos of them but doesn’t want to hold binoculars would be an exception.
Good. We can move on now that I’ve gotten that off my chest.
Go to Spotting Scopes, Part I if you want to learn more about choosing spotting scopes for birding and their features.
Is it better to be straight or angled?
The majority of the scopes listed below are available in both angled and straight versions.
It’s entirely up to you and the type of viewing you prefer.
Spotting scopes for bird watching, straight or angled
To learn more about the advantages and disadvantages of using an angled or straight spotting scope for bird watching, click here.
In addition, most scope models come with a variety of objective lens sizes. It all depends on your specific requirements.
For a list of objective lens sizes for bird watching spotting scopes, click here.
Best Scope for a Low Budget (Under $200)
Celestron ultima spotting scope for bird watching on a budget
Spotting Scope Celestron Ultima Zoom 80mm
The Celestron Ultima Zoom Spotting Scope is a refractor-style scope with an 80mm objective lens and a 20x-60x built-in zoom.
It is available in both straight and angled versions (see all listings below).
This is a great option if you’re looking for an entry-level scope.
The scope’s only flaw is that it lacks the more expensive ED glass that helps prevent blue fringing at higher magnifications.
Optics with multiple coatings
The waterproof eyecup can be removed to allow a camera to be attached to a standard T-Thread.
If needed, the 45-degree angled eyepiece supports a shorter tripod.
At 3.6 pounds, it’s a featherweight.
The scope comes with a padded carrying case with access zippers on both ends so you can use it without taking it out of the case.
Other options for the Celestron Ultima include a 65mm (less expensive) and a 100mm (more expensive) objective lens, as well as angled and straight models for each size.
Size of the Objective Lens
The larger the objective lens, the greater the scope’s light-gathering capacity, but it also adds to its weight.
If you do a lot of low-light birding (dawn and dusk, cloudy locations, etc. ), the 100mm size is a good choice.
However, in most situations, the 80mm will suffice. Because this is a lower-end scope with no premium optics, we wouldn’t recommend getting the 65mm.
“The Ultima 80 mm offers a step up in aperture from the 65 mm, offering 50% brighter images,” Celestron adds. 50 percent is a significant amount, and I believe it is well worth the extra cost.
More information on objective lens sizes can be found here.
If you’re still undecided about whether you want a straight or angled scope, read our quick guide to scope body design here.
“This scope was purchased for birding and occasional stargazing. So far, I’ve been very pleased with it. For the price, the quality is outstanding. I’ve been very pleased with this scope and would recommend it to any budget-conscious birder.” -Birdie Haynes is a writer who specialises in children’s books.
All of the Celestron Ultima models are available in angled and straight bodies, with either an 80mm or 100mm objective lens.
Budget-Friendly Scope (Under $500)
Spotting Scope Vortex Diamondback 20-60×80
At this price point, the Diamondback is a fantastic scope. In comparison to the Viper HD and Razor HD spotting scopes, it is Vortex’s most affordable model.
The Vortex Diamondback line includes both straight and angled models with objective lens sizes of 60 mm and 80 mm.
Review of the Vortex Diamondback 20-60×80 birdwatching spotting scope
It’s a full-sized scope with a compact design, weighing in at 33.8 oz for the 60 mm and 47.1 oz for the 80 mm lenses, respectively, less than most spotting scopes in this size.
We recommend the 80mm lens because it will always provide you with a brighter edge, which is especially useful in low-light situations.
And it’s not for nothing that we adore the view-through case, which is both easy to use and see through thanks to its generous fit.
Multicoated full XR optics
Improved brightness with dielectric prism coatings
Scratch-resistant ArmorTek coating
Waterproof and fogproof with an O-ring seal and nitrogen purge.
“After comparing other high-end glass, I decided on the Vortex Diamondback 20-60×80 spotting scope and have no regrets.
It’s performed as expected, and the brightness provided by the 80mm objective lens is fantastic.”
Vortex’s warranty is also fantastic:
‘Vortex VIP Warranty’ is a warranty offered by Vortex.
Lifetime. Unlimited. Unconditional.
If the product becomes damaged or defective, Vortex will repair or replace it.
Totally free—no matter what the cause!
Spotting Scope Vanguard Endeavor HD 20-60x65mm
For its size and price under $500, the Vanguard Endeavor HD Spotting Scope is an excellent bird watching scope.
For birding, the vanguard endeavour hd 20-60×65 spotting scope is ideal.
This one has wowed birders, who appreciate how light and portable it is for on-the-go birding adventures.
The following are some of the features:
Color fringing is virtually eliminated with ED Extra-Low Dispersion glass.
High light transmission rate due to fully multi-coated optical system with improved coatings
Magnesium housing with rubber armour for lightness and durability
Sunshade that retracts and has a peephole
Included are an eyepiece and a deluxe scope coat.
Nitrogen-filled body and eyepiece are fully waterproof (submersible) and fog proof.
Bak4 prisms with phase coating for high resolution
Eyepiece is detachable and has a zoom range of 20-60x, as well as a retractable eyecup and up to 20mm of eye relief.
Does the scope have a digiscoping adapter that allows it to be used as a super telephoto lens with a 65mm or 82mm objective lens?
The Vanguard Endeavor is available in two sizes: 65mm and 82mm.
We believe the 65mm objective lens is suitable for most birding situations, especially with the ED and multi-coated glass, unless you plan to do a lot of digiscoping or will be in low-light situations frequently.
Those who plan to carry their camera around a lot will appreciate the smaller lens and lighter weight.
“This is an excellent scope for both amateur and professional birders. The build quality is excellent, and the design is fantastic for the price. You could easily spend twice as much on a scope and still not get all of the features included in this one. I usually make a Pro/Con list, but I can’t think of any!
The Benefits are as follows:
- High-quality optics – Custom protective carrying case – DSLR mounting option – Rugged construction
I would recommend this scope to anyone looking for an entry-level to mid-level birding scope.” -Myoho
–> The Vanguard Endeavor HD Scope can be viewed here.
Best Scope for a Semi-Budget ($500-$1,000)
Spotting Scope Celestron Regal M2 20-60x80ED
With ED glass, XLT multi-coated optics, and a magnesium alloy lightweight, yet very durable body, the Celestron Regal M2 80ED Spotting Scope is well worth the investment if you can afford a $500+ scope.
Review of the Celestron Regal M2 80ed Spotting Scope
Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) glass reduces chromatic aberration, boosts resolution and contrast, and ensures colour consistency.
XLT (Fully Multi-Coated) lens coatings are proprietary and maximise light transmission for bright, sharp images.
Magnesium allows for a body that is both light and strong, reducing overall weight by 14% over the previous model.
To avoid fogging, it is fully waterproof and nitrogen purged.
Dual focus mechanism has been improved, allowing it to focus on objects 2x faster.
T-Ring and T-Adapter for digiscoping with your camera
Overview of the Celestron Regal M2 80ED Spotting Scope
“I’ve been looking for a scope for a few years because I’m a big birder. I finally decided to look through some scopes and do my homework in order to find a good scope for a good price. This was no simple task.
Fortunately for me, I live near Cape May Point, where a large number of birders from all over the world visit. This allowed me to talk to a lot of people about their scopes and actually look through a lot of them, which, as anyone who has looked for a scope knows, isn’t easy…
Because the hawk watch is sponsored by Swarovski, we were able to look through some of the world’s best birding scopes. They were friendly, but I couldn’t justify spending $2,500 or more on a scope. This is where I came across someone with a Celestron scope who was more than willing to let me borrow it for a few minutes.
I couldn’t believe how bright and crisp the image was, even at a higher magnification (even when compared to the Swarovski), and I was sold once I heard the price. So I went home and did some more research, and discovered that this scope has excellent reviews and is reasonably priced.” -JerseyJeff
–> Click here to see the Celestron Regal MD 80ED Spotting Scope in action.
Best Scope in the Middle Price Range ($1,000-$2,000)
Vortex Razor HD Spotting Scope 20-60×85
The Vortex 20-60×85 Razor HD Angled birdSpotting Scope is a high-quality bird watching spotting scope at a great price.
Vortex Razor HD 20-60×85 is the best mid-priced bird watching spotting scope.
Premium Extra-Low Dispersion (ED) glass for outstanding viewing in low light.
Armor Tek’s ultra-hard coating protects exterior lenses from scratches, oil, and dirt.
The clearest, brightest, and most color-accurate images are produced by dielectric prism coatings.
XR anti-reflective coatings are proprietary and increase light transmission for maximum brightness.
Chromatic aberration is reduced by using a triplet apochromatic lens.