Gear to make a bird-watcher sing

Lora J. Finnegan

Ultimate birding book. The Sibley Guide to Birds by David Allen Sibley (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2000; $35) is so thorough, detailed, and user-friendly, it has become the new standard for identifying birds—thanks to 6,600 illustrations. If God is in the details, this book is heavenly help for birders. But at nearly 7 by 10 inches and with more than 500 pages, it's hard to lug as a field guide. You may want to leave it at home and stick with one of the pocket-size books mentioned on page 110 when you're tramping through a marsh. Due this month: Sibley's Birding Basics (Alfred A. Knopf, New York; $15.95; www.aaknopf.com).

A bird in the hand. These soft, stuffed birds are cute, but they're more than toys: the Cornell Lab of Ornithology gave each the authentic song of its living counterpart, recorded in the wild. The 5-inch Audubon bird toys are modeled after various species, including the cardinal, chickadee, goldfinch, grosbeak, loon, and robin. Audubon birds: $7.50 each. (800) 800-9678 or www.wildrepublic.com.

Adjustable bird feeder. The TopFlight Select-A-Seed feeder can be adjusted to dispense anything from the sunflower seeds that draw grosbeaks to the fine thistle seeds that attract goldfinches and pine siskins. $21 from Opus. (800) 221-6787 or www.opususa.com.

What's that call? IdentiFlyer knows. An audio birdsong dictionary that you can take into the woods is helpful with those birds you hear but may never see. The BirdSong IdentiFlyer plays digital recordings from interchangeable song cards; songs of more than 100 birds are featured on 13 cards. $35 from For the Birds; includes player and two song cards ($9.95 per additional card). (877) 261-6556 or www.identiflyer.com.

Better, tougher binoculars. "The biggest change I've seen in gear during the past few years," an Audubon Nature Store employee told us, "is the plummeting price of high-quality, high-tech binoculars." Bushnell's Legend 10x42 binoculars are a good example. They have a RainGuard coating that prevents fogging in cold weather, armoring to protect against the bumps that cause lens misalignment, and weatherproof construction that keeps you birding even through soaking wet winter weather. $525 suggested retail price. (800) 423-3537 or www.bushnell.com.