Holiday gifts for birders, 2015 edition

By Ilana DeBare

Looking for holiday gifts that will tickle the tail feathers of the birders in your life? Here are some ideas that go beyond the usual binoculars, bird feeders, and field guides. We admit a bias toward buying locally, so we’ve included items by Bay Area artisans wherever possible.

For the field

Binocular harness. Give the gift of a happy neck! A harness can reduce the neck stress of wearing binoculars and hold them in place with less bumping around. Nearly every major optics company produces a harness; here’s one sold by the American Birding Association for $22. Prices range from around $12 to $50.

Bird song CD. Turn a tedious daily commute into improved birding skills – with a birdsong CD or smartphone app! Golden Gate Bird Alliance birding-by-ear instructor Denise Wight recommends Bird Songs of California ($24.99), one of many regional and North American bird song CDs produced by Cornell’s Macauley Library.   You can also find a wide selection of bird song CDs at the Online Nature Mall. For reviews of various bird song apps, see this article on the Cornell web site.

Rotating backpack. We haven’t tried this yet, but it looks intriguing: A daypack with a pouch that rotates from back to front, allowing easy access to your binoculars or camera. Made by Mindshift and available from REI ($199) and other outdoor retailers.

Rotating backpack by Mindshift
Rotating backpack by Mindshift


For the home

Bird letterpress calendar

Letterpress desk calendar. Calendars can be lovely works of art, even if many of us track appointments by smart phone these days. Take the small desktop bird calendar produced by Berkeley artist Rigel Stuhmiller. Printed by hand on an antique letterpress, the 4×5-inch pages come in a plastic case that turns into a display stand. $25, with discounts if you buy five or more.

Calendar cover – Black-necked Stilt and chicks

Birds of the Bay Area photo calendar. Brighten your wall with inspiring images of birds from Golden Gate Bird Alliance’s 2018 Birds of the SF Bay Area photo calendar. With images by over thirty of the Bay Area’s most talented wildlife photographers, the calendar will provide a bright spot of beauty on even the dreariest February day. Just $20, with proceeds benefitting GGBA’s conservation and education programs. 

Woodpecker door knocker. Hear a tap-tap from your visitors rather than a doorbell! This charming Pileated Woodpecker knocker is hand-painted and carved in pine, and sold by Massachusetts Audubon for $32.95.

Woodpecker door knocker
Make your next party a hummer!

Hummingbird toothpick holders. Too cute! Imagine these colorful hummers helping your party guests spear appetizers. Insert your own toothpicks so they can be used over and over. (FYI, the company that produces these also makes hummingbird wine glass markers.) $14 for a set of six from 

Bird wallets, purses, magnets. Oakland artist Bess Petty produces vinyl purses and wallets plus refrigerator magnets with realistic drawings of Black Phoebes, Snowy Plovers, Belted Kingfishers and other birds. A set of six magnets is just $10 from her Bird Vs Bird Design web site.

Bird magnets by Bess Petty
Bird magnets by Bess Petty
Birds & Beans certified bird-friendly coffee
Birds & Beans certified bird-friendly coffee

Bird-friendly coffee. Support warblers, tanagers, and other birds that winter in Central America with a gift of bird-friendly coffee. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center gives its seal of approval only to coffee that is grown organically, with a canopy of shade trees that provide essential bird habitat. Birds & Beans offers a gift pack of twelve 12-ounce bags of various bird-friendly roasts, both caf and decaf, for $120. Or order a single 12-ounce bag for $12.50. (Do you live in the Bay Area? Golden Gate Bird Alliance sponsors a monthly buying club for Birds & Beans coffee that can save you shipping costs: Click here for details.)

Puffin tree ornaments. We could easily write an entire blog post (or three) about bird-themed holiday ornaments, but we’ll limit ourselves to these super-colorful felt puffins that won our heart. Handmade in Ireland, $14 each on Etsy.

Burrowing Owl tote bag

Burrowing Owl tote bag. Let a fierce little Burrowing Owl guard your groceries, beach towels, birding gear, or picnic supplies! At 20 inches long and 15.5 inches, this tote holds more than most other grocery bags. Made from recycled plastics, the proceeds benefit Golden Gate Bird Alliance. $10 or $9 for GGBA members.

Jewelry and clothing

Wild Bryde bird jewelry. Imagine wearing a different pair of hummingbird earrings every day of the month! Wild Bryde Jewelry — located in Richmond, California — makes delicate, light filigree earrings, necklaces and more. Designer Mike Warner studied both art and botany, and his web site offers hundreds of bird designs including 30 raptors, 40 aquatic birds, and 56 hummers. Most earrings cost between $28 and $35.

Wild Bryde earrings
Wild Bryde earrings
Wren farthing earrings
Wren farthing earrings

Wren farthing earrings. Here’s one you’re not likely to find in the local jewelry store – 1945 farthing coin earrings with the image of a wren! These are genuine English farthings with holes drilled and sterling silver hooks. Also sold as brooches. Available through Etsy for $17.95.

Jabebo earrings. Jabebo Designs makes dozens of species of bird earrings with a unique “green” process: Produced from two layers of post-consumer cereal boxes, they are then die-cut and varnished. They’re available in the gift shops of many nature centers including the Warming Hut Bookstore at San Francisco’s Crissy Field, or online from the fabulous Birdwatchers’ General Store on Cape Cod for $12.95. For a complete inventory – everything from Common Yellowthroat to Northern Flicker — and a list of retailers by state, see the Jabebo web site.

Plover earrings made from recycled cereal boxes by Jabebo Designs
Plover earrings made from recycled cereal boxes by Jabebo Designs

Bird cuff bracelets. Southern California artist Cindy English Gillis makes cuff bracelets with bird images from jeweler’s grade brass, sealed in acrylic polymer. They’re $49.99 and include a gift box with a bird image.

World’s scariest shawl. Scary if you’re a mouse or vole, that is. For the rest of us, this owl print scarf or shawl is simply gorgeous. Hand painted and then digitally printed on your choice of cotton, cashmere, or silk satin, starting at $68. Ships from Australia via Etsy.

Barn Owl shawl on Etsy
Chickadee socks
Chickadee socks

Bird socks. Put a roadrunner or a chickadee on your feet! Birdwatchers’ General Store offers several kinds of bird socks for $9.95. Or find more at The Sock Drawer for $11.

Hummingbird nightgown. Once your bird socks are on, all you’ll need for a cozy night is a flannel hummingbird nightgown. It’s $39.99 from the National Wildlife Federation (which has an entire shopping section on its web site).

For the young (at heart)

Bird coloring book. Coloring isn’t just for kids anymore! It’s become a popular way for adults to de-stress and tap their creative impulses. The Color Yourself Smart “Birds of North America” coloring book offers more than just outlines: It includes natural history facts and scientific names for 52 bird species. You get colored pencils too! $19.95. (More suitable for older kids and adults than for little ones.)

Birds of North America coloring book - not just for kids!
Birds of North America coloring book – not just for kids!

Bird memory game. Ages three and up will have fun learning bird species with the Birds of North America memory game. Place the 100 cards face down, then turn them up two at a time and try to remember where the match for each card was located. $12.95 from the Birdwatchers’ General Store, which also sells other bird-related games.

Bird brain teasers. This book of games and puzzles is packed with bird-themed crosswords, visual puzzles, and the first-ever “Birdoku” challenges, as well as bird facts and lore.

Young Naturalist’s Sketchbook. This attractive wire-bound journal will encourage young naturalists to sketch or take notes on all the cool stuff they find in the field. There are 38 full-color illustrations and accompanying descriptions, plus 86 pages for sketching and writing. $19.95

In print…

Okay, we promised not to include field guides. But we couldn’t resist the following two guides because they are brand-new and targeted at our region, the San Francisco Bay Area! Chances are, the bird lovers in your life don’t own them yet. 

Birds of Golden Gate Park. This laminated, folding guide fits easily in a back pocket and won’t get torn or soggy. It’s a perfect gift for beginning birders, or any San Francisco resident who’s curious about the birds showing up in her or his backyard. Just $6.95 or $6 for Golden Gate Bird Alliance members.

Birds of Northern California. Co-written by GGBA birding instructor Dave Quady, this is a handy regional field guide. Click here to read our review of it. Just published in November 2015! $19.95, with a 10% discount for GGBA members.

Birds of Golden Gate Park pocket guide


Birds of Northern California
Birds of Northern California

Also in print…

Breeding Birds of Solano County. Definitely a coffee table book rather than a field guide: You’d need a couple of sherpas to haul this massive, gorgeous book into the field! Produced by our friends at Napa-Solano Audubon Society, the second edition was just released. It’s 12×11 inches and chock full of stunning full-page photos and natural history. A beautiful and well-designed book that will bring hours of pleasure, even if you live nowhere near Solano County or the Bay Area. $55.

Breeding Birds of Solano County cover
Breeding Birds of Solano County cover

Bay Nature magazine. Share the wonders of the Bay Area’s birds and wildlife throughout the year. Bay Nature magazine’s in-depth stories, beautiful wildlife photography, and captivating art transport you to the wild places nearby and highlight the work of people working to protect them. Special rate of $17.95 for a one-year gift subscription, $16 each for two or more gift subscriptions.

Intangible but invaluable

Perhaps your friends and loved ones have enough objects in their lives already, and would be more pleased with a gift that protects wildlife! Consider a gift membership or a donation in their honor to Golden Gate Bird Alliance or the conservation organization of your choice.

National Audubon offers an adopt-a-bird program, where the person you are honoring will receive an “adoption certificate” and a plush bird – Great Horned Owl, Common Loon, Peregrine Falcon, or many more species of your choice.


See our 2012 holiday gift blog post   for other gift ideas. Or add your own suggestions in the comment section below!