Whether you are a beginner or an experienced bird watcher, one important factor to consider when going on a birding expedition is what to wear.
Not only should your outfit be comfortable and practical for the activity, but it should also be appropriate for the environment in which you will be observing. This might mean wearing particular colors or types of clothing.
In this article, we will provide tips on what to wear when birding to help make your next birdwatching adventure a success.
Functional birding attire: How to dress for outdoor birding
When planning for a day of birdwatching, it’s important to dress for the occasion. This doesn’t mean that you need to buy a whole new wardrobe of technical gear and special fabrics. Far from it.
But if you plan to be out in the field for extended periods, your attire should be both functional and comfortable. It’s important to wear weather-appropriate clothing that allows you to move freely and blend into your surroundings.
As well as considering weather conditions such as sun, wind, rain and any other sorts of precipitation that might descend, you might also need to prepare for bugs or medical/mobility needs.
It’s also a good idea to have plenty of places to put stuff, whether this is in pockets or an organised bag.
Here are some suggestions for selecting suitable clothing and footwear.
What to think about when choosing clothes for birding
Keep it quiet
Birds have highly sensitive hearing, so avoid wearing clothing made of materials that rustle or rub together, such as nylon or dense polyester.
Additionally, avoid shoes that squeak and minimize noise from any metal fastenings or keychains that may clang with movement.
The quieter your apparel is, the less likely you are to scare off any birds. This will hopefully lead to a more successful birding expedition.
Avoid expensive or new clothing
Wearing expensive or new clothing can be distracting and may cause you to worry about keeping your clothes clean or undamaged. The birds won’t care what brand you’re wearing!
Avoid wearing brand new clothes or shoes that haven’t been worn in yet to prevent blisters or chafing after a long day of walking.
Comfort is key
Comfort should be a top priority when it comes to birding attire. Wear clothing that is comfortable and has a relaxed fit.
Heavy or restrictive clothing should be avoided, as it can be irritating and uncomfortable. Choose lightweight, breathable fabrics. One option is to choose moisture-wicking fabrics to keep you dry and comfortable.
Dress in layers to adjust to temperature changes throughout the day without interrupting your activity. Wear all-weather gear that can withstand the elements.
Choose waterproof clothing and thermal gear if necessary.
Should I always wear pants for birding?
Long pants are also recommended, even in hot weather, to protect against bees, mosquitoes, ticks, and other pests.
While many people recommend not to wear dresses or skirts when birding because they may not offer the same protection or warmth as longer pants, your comfort is down to you.
If your preference is to wear a skirt, there’s obviously no rule against it. Just as there is no rule that people need to wear quick-dry zip-off convertible pants!
Functional clothes help in the field
Cargo pants are an excellent choice because they have deep pockets that are perfect for carrying field guides, notebooks, and other birdwatching tools.
Birding vests are another popular option as they have numerous pockets that are ideal for holding gear, including binoculars.
What color clothes work best for birding?
Birds are attracted to certain colors, which can be useful information for bird enthusiasts. By paying attention to how colors impact birds, you can increase the number of birds you see.
Black, gray, dark green, and darker browns are all shades associated with safety and can be found in shaded places where birds seek refuge. Dark blues and purples are also colors that birds seem to like.
Most effective colors to wear for birding
When it comes to birding fashion, it’s important to blend in with the environment. Choose subdued shades of gray, brown, and green.
Try to match the colors of your clothing to your surroundings. This could mean lighter greens and browns for open fields or grassy areas.
In lightly shaded woods, look to wear light yellows, greens, and browns. Or for more dense forests, opt for darker shades.
For birding in desert environments, try to put on muted brown, red or gray.
These colors may change according to the seasons and what’s going on in the environment where you are. Ordinarily, avoid wearing bright colors, as they can scare off birds.
Avoid UV high-vis items
Likewise for UV reflective clothing because birds can see UV light and will avoid it. Wearing high-visibility jackets or vests when birding is a no-no.
Check sneakers for reflective strips and trimmings on clothing items such as track suit pants, hats, and zippers, which can also be high visibility.
Exceptions include when birding during hunting season. In such cases, bright hats or a strip of bright cloth can make you visible to hunters.
Similarly, when birding for hummingbirds in a garden, bright colors can help to attract them. In this case, bright colors of pink, orange, red, and yellow can enhance your birding experience.
Why do birders not wear white?
Birders often avoid wearing white because it can reflect light and potentially scare away birds.
When light reflects off white clothing, it can create flashes of light that mimic the movement of a predator, which can cause birds to feel threatened and fly away.
Therefore, birders typically choose clothing in more muted or natural colors, such as earth tones or shades of green or brown.
These have the effect of allowing them to blend in with their surroundings and avoid attracting unwanted attention from birds.
Choose comfortable footwear
Wear comfortable, sturdy shoes that provide good support and grip, especially if you’ll be hiking or walking on uneven terrain.
Opt for comfortable footwear with proper ankle support and adequate tread that is waterproof. Ensure that your shoes are broken in, as you don’t want to get blisters or chafing.
While tennis shoes may suffice for birding on paved paths and walkways, they may not be ideal for more challenging environments.
Use a sturdy pair shoes or boots in challenging terrain
Birding often requires exploring areas off the beaten path, and it’s important to have footwear that can handle all sorts of terrain. For uneven, slippery, wet, or muddy terrain, a sturdy pair of hiking shoes or boots is a good idea.
Make sure to find a pair that offers comfort, good ankle support, and excellent tread. A local outdoor gear store should be able to help you find some that suit your feet and requirements.
By investing in proper footwear, you can focus on enjoying the birds and the great outdoors without worrying about slipping or tripping.
Good quality socks – and spares!
If you are birding in cold weather, consider buying some good quality woollen socks. They will be long-lasting (provided you wash them at the correct temperature!) and keep your feet warm and toasty.
Insulating hiking or camping socks are another good option.
It is always worth packing a spare pair of socks, even in summer. Whether your socks get damp from rain, dew or sweat, it makes a difference to your confort if you have a dry pair to change into.
Protect your head and eyes
Wear a hat or cap to protect your head from the sun and to reduce glare. For many people a simple baseball cap will suffice.
A hat will also break up your face’s outline for better disguise near wary birds.
Sunglasses can also help reduce glare and protect your eyes from UV rays.
Bring a rain jacket
When deciding on outerwear for birding, it’s important to consider the climate and terrain you’ll be encountering. Depending on the weather conditions, it may be necessary to bring a rain jacket or poncho to protect yourself from the rain.
Cold weather birding requires warm coats, gloves, shoes, and hats, but experienced birders know the importance of layering to maintain optimal body temperature. To prepare for sudden temperature changes, layer up with a T-shirt, thermal shirt, and sweater under your coat.
Ensure that your winter coat is also water-resistant for added protection against the elements. When faced with cold rain, an insulated rain jacket over layers is more suitable than a wool coat.
On the other hand, in warm and humid weather, a lightweight rain jacket that can be easily folded and stowed in your backpack is crucial.
Try to avoid bright colors, though, as birds have excellent color vision. They may be spooked by your presence. Choose muted colors and blend in with your surroundings to get closer to your feathered friends.
An appropriate bag
While any bag will do, a good hiking daypack or satchel is recommended. This allows plenty of room for belongings while being able to carry it handsfree.
It should be small-to-medium-sized and easy to carry along with your binoculars or camera. Pack it with your binoculars, water bottle, rain jacket, field guide, hat, snacks, and the items listed above.
Refresh your bag with a newly filled water bottle and snacks for each day of birding.
Other useful items include:
- Insect repellent
- Wet wipes
- A remote phone charger
While these items may not be needed every time, it’s always a good idea to have them on hand. Keep them in a daypack or satchel so that you have them when you need them.
Final thoughts on what to wear for birding
What you wear when birding can greatly affect the outcome of your expedition.
It’s best to opt for comfortable, practical, and plain-colored clothes that blend in with your surroundings. This is better for the birds because they won’t get alarmed.
You are always aiming for the minimal disturbance possible for the birds. And of course the happy consequence for you of them saying settled is that they won’t fly away. So you’ll get to see them for longer!
Weather-appropriate clothing with functional pockets can enhance your birdwatching experience. Avoid wearing noisy, UV reflective, restrictive, and brightly colored clothing.
Don’t forget to bring appropriate footwear, a hat, and a tote or daypack to carry essential items.
By wearing appropriate clothing and gear, you’ll be able to enjoy your birdwatching experience more comfortably and effectively.
A good article move onto to develop your skills as a birdwatcher is this one – What not to do when birding: avoid common beginner mistakes