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The Dos and Don’ts of Birding Fashion

Posted by Amanda Joest on

From the backyard to the trail there are several factors to consider when deciding on proper birding attire. Wearing the right thing can make all the difference for protection and comfort to maximize the bird watching experience. The following are some of the best “Do’s & Don’ts” for choosing your field wardrobe depending on the habitat, temperature, and season. 


DO go for clothing that is all about function

Since you’re out on the trail for hours, or even all day, you’ll want everything right at your fingertips. Some of the best clothes for function include cargo pants, birding vests, and sturdy, comfortable footwear. Cargo pants are a must for birders. The deep pockets are perfect for tools such as field guides and notebooks while the belt loops are ideal for holding knives, a compass, and other equipment. Long pants on the trail are always a good idea, even in hot weather, because they protect against bees, mosquitos, ticks, and other common outdoor pests. Birding vests are extremely popular because the pockets are great for holding plenty of gear, even binoculars, and can easily take the place of a field bag. Comfortable boots with adequate tread and proper ankle support are crucial for functional footwear. Be sure they are waterproof and the laces aren’t too long.


DON’T wear brand new shoes

Avoid wearing brand new shoes out for long excursions. You’ll want to ensure they are worn in so you don’t get blisters or chafing.


DO go for comfortable, relaxed fit clothing 

When it comes to birding fashion, comfort is top of the list. It should go without saying, that the more comfortable your clothes are, the longer you’ll want to stay out in the field.


DON’T wear heavy restrictive clothing. 

Too restrictive or heavy clothing can be irritating and uncomfortable, so go for lightweight, breathable fabrics. Try to dress in layers so as the temperature changes throughout the day you’ll be able to adjust accordingly without interrupting your activity. 


DON’T wear loud clothing

This may seem a bit silly, but the quieter your clothing can be, the better. For instance, avoid wearing corduroy pants, a nylon jacket, or shoes that squeak, so you can get even closer to the birds in their habitats. Birds have exceptional hearing so regardless of what you wear they know you’re around, but the quieter the outfit the better. Buckles, accessories, and even loud zippers that rattle can all be distracting and impede your birding experience.


DO wear camouflage 

While you certainly don’t need to wear army fatigues, experienced birders know that blending in with the habitat is key to exploring the area. Choose subdued shades of gray, brown, and green and completely avoid bright colors, especially white, which is a color birds most often associate with danger. 

There are exceptions to this color rule, however. If you choose to go birding during hunting season it’s important to follow the recommended guidelines so you stay safe. Bright hats or pinning a strip of bright cloth to your clothing will help make you stand out and recognized by hunters who may be nearby. Additionally, if you are birding for hummingbirds in a garden, then bright colors are also important. Colors such as red, yellow, and orange will help to attract the birds so you get a better view. 


DO consider the Environment

As mentioned previously, long pants and long sleeves can help to keep insects from biting, while also blocking excessive sun. You’ll also want to consider the environment you will be birding in and choose waterproof clothing and thermal clothing if necessary.


DO wear all-weather gear

Always choose clothing that you don’t mind getting wet, dirty, or just plain ruined. After all, professional birders are known to do anything they can for a good look at the birds even if it means crouching in the mud or rubbing against scratchy bushes.


DON’T forget to cover your head

Wearing a hat is a good idea because it breaks up the outline of your face for better disguise near wary birds. 


DON’T wear UV reflective clothing

Birds can actually see UV light and they will act accordingly by avoiding it. Avoid wearing any sort of clothing that reflects UV light.


Without a doubt, the best type of birding fashion is both comfortable and highly functional so you not only feel good while you’re in the field but also get a lot of use out of your clothing, too. Choosing the best birding clothing, will allow for hours of bird watching and allow you to get closer to the birds than you imagined.

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