Experienced birders encourage beginners to spend as much money as they can afford on binoculars. A well-built pair can last for decades and may get you deeper into birding more quickly by allowing you to discern telling field marks, be they the iris on a herring gull or the black cap on a Wilson’s warbler.
In making your choice, you’ll want to consider weight, field of view, close-focus distance, and fit. As for the specifications, all binoculars come with a two-part numerical description. The first number relates to the magnification; the second, to the diameter of the big lens, which will indicate the brightness. So an 8 x 42 pair magnifies an image eight times and has a lens of 42 millimeters. Generally, you’re looking for magnification between 7 and 10 and lens size (or brightness) between 35 and 50. Anything less will be insufficient; anything more will make the binoculars heavy and unwieldy. And one final tip from 19-year-old birder Luke Seitz: “Always, always waterproof.”