An Amateurs Guide To Birding With A Spotting Scope

For anyone keen on observing birds and other wildlife in their natural habitat, a spotting scope can prove invaluable. With a higher capacity than regular binoculars, but not quite as powerful (or cumbersome) as a telescope, spotting scopes have become a birders best friend.

Never heard of a spotting scope before? New to the world of birding? Well don’t worry, the following brief guide will be enough to get you started birding as an amateur, and if you decide to invest in a spotting scope, why not check out this Celestron hummingbird review.

Let’s look at the features of spotting scopes that make them an invaluable tool for birdwatching:


It can be helpful to think of a spotting scope as a telescope with a medium-range, as their powers of magnification range from 15x to 60x. Available with eyepieces that are fixed in length and adjustable, or single zoomeyepieces, it’s best as an amateur, to begin your spotting scope journey with an eyepiece that’s low power. You can always upgrade to a higher strength magnification as you become a seasoned birder!


In terms of birdwatching, a spotting scope that can easily shift its focus from close up, to far away, but which can be fine-tuned for a clearer view, is ideal. Focusing can be achieved by twisting the grip of the scopes barrel, or rotating the knob found on top of the scope. Ideally, you want a spotting scope that has two knobs for focusing: fast and fine-tuning.

Zoom lenses

In just a single and swift adjustment, zoom lenses on a spotting scope can boost the power of magnification from 20x right up to 60x, and are advantageous for birdwatching since they enable the user to scan easily at a lower power, and then switch quickly to a higher power to observe something in more detail.

Eye relief

 Eye relief is known as the distance from the rear lens required by your eye to observe a full and clear picture. Eyepieces with long relief are ideal for spectacle wearers, and you’ll find different levels of eye relief of different eyepieces.

Field of View or FOV

This term refers to the distance you’re able to observe when looking through the lens. As you get closer to an object, the act of zooming in causes your filed of view to shrink.

Quality of glass

Spotting scopes of the highest quality typically have lenses made out of glass and coated in fluorite, glass that’s extra-low dispersion (ED), or glass that’s high density (HD). You’ll notice the difference in the glass used by manufacturers of spotting scopes when observing objects in conditions in which lighting is poor, such as in the late evening, and how high quality you want the glass of your scope to be, depends entirely on what type of birdwatching you wish to carry out.

Straight or angled body

Angled scopes can provide a greater degree of convenience if you’re looking upward at objects, while straight bodied scopes such as the Celestron 20-60x60mm UpClose Straight Spotting Scope, may give better results when on higher ground and looking down at objects. Which you choose will ultimately come down to personal preference.


Spotting scopes are available at a wide spectrum of prices, and naturally, the more expensive the scope, the higher its quality. Note that prices can be affected by the coatings applied to optics, which are designed to minimize reflection and make them easier to use.

Spotting scopes are a great way for amateur birders to spot and identify our feathered friends in their natural habitats, and with so many to choose from, a quick search online will leave you spoiled for choice.