Recently, I had the chance to test one of the newest innovations in birding wear. I’m still testing it and not because it really needs more testing but because I’m trying to see how it doesn’t function in Costa Rica. So far, the shirts have worked well while guiding and birding in warm, humid rainforest, and much cooler, wet conditions in the highlands. And, these shirts have more than passed the test.
That’s me on the right wearing a Wunderbird shirt during the first Coronado Bird Count, I’ll be writing a post about that pretty soon.
The birding wear I am referring to are shirts offered by Wunderbird, a fairly new company dedicated to “the birdwatching experience and to birdwatchers׳ needs.” Three types of shirts are offered and each has a cool name. There is “The Kestrel”, a short sleeve shirt, “The Peregrine”, a long-sleeve shirt, and “The Gyrfalcon”, a birding hoodie. Recently, I was contacted by the owner of the company to test Wunderbird shirts and write an honest review. Since most of my birding is done in warm, humid climates, I agreed to test the Kestrel and Peregrine shirts, and soon, I will also publish a review written by someone who has been testing the woman’s Kestrel.
Without further ado, here’s my take on the Wunderbird Kestrel and Peregrine:
Comfort- Big thumbs up
After putting both of these shirts on, the first thing I noticed was how “easy” it felt to wear them. Despite the front pockets (more like pouches) and padded shoulders, these features didn’t add any extra weight or discomfort, they fit so well, I almost felt like I was wearing nothing. And yet, they weren’t too tight either, fortunately, I had picked the correct size despite never having tried them on. This was no doubt because of Wunderbird’s sizing chart.
The pockets/pouches- Another thumbs up
While birding in both rainforest and cloud forest, I tried the upper pocket to see if it really did support my un-harnessed Swarovskis. Unzipping the pocket, I put the rather hefty binos in the pouch and was pleased to see that I no longer felt like a rock was hanging from my neck, something that obviously made them easier to carry. But what about taking them in and out of that upper pouch? In tropical forest, a quick draw is essential for seeing more birds because many are shy and have an innate capability to hide as soon as they perceive something, anything out of place. You have to react right away and get that bird into focus or risk frustration at missing lifers. As I encountered mixed flocks of tanagers, espied a Black-throated Trogon through a hole in the dense tropical vegetation, and noticed a Barred Hawk flying into view, I was pleased to see that the pouch didn’t hinder my chances at getting binoculars on birds. I should mention that this is especially important while guiding since you have to be “on point” at all times, see the bird, and get clients on it before it makes its exit.
Binos in the Kestrel pouch.
You may need a quick draw for birds like the Cabanis’s Ground-Sparrow.
The lower pouch is even bigger than the upper one and that also came in handy. Although it barely seems like the pouch is there, I found it useful for my bluetooth speaker. I could have also placed a laser pointer in there, phone, or a notebook, and in fact, did use it for my iPad mini while visiting a site on the Caminos de Costa Rica trail. That said, I wouldn’t want to put too many things in the lower pocket because you would eventually feel the weight and perhaps too many things could eventually tear it? In any case, it works well for one or two objects, at least that’s how I will be using it in conjunction with a small pack to carry water, first aid, organic chocolate, and other important items.
Shoulder pads- Thumbs up
I admit that after putting the shirt on for the first time, I felt a bit funny about the shoulder pads. I wasn’t used to wearing shirts with such a feature (it’s been a while since the 80s), and sort of felt like I had put on a uniform. But, you can’t expect a pro birding shirt to look like some other random shirt used for other purposes, and I got used to it quicker than I expected in any case. Plus, the shoulder pads aren’t there for show. They serve a welcome purpose I can relate to because I have spent many a day lugging a scope around balanced on and biting into my shoulder. Now, I barely feel the heavy Manfrotto tripod, the pads definitely work in that regard.
Climate control- Also thumbs up
This was actually my biggest concern because my birding in Costa Rica often involves walking in warm, humid places. I don’t know it it’s because I spent my youth in the cold winters of Niagara Falls, NY, but whatever the reason, I need to stay cool in hot tropical conditions. While many locals feel just fine, I have to be careful about overheating and is why I was very pleased at the advent of moisture wicking fabrics and other clothing options that cool you down. Therefore, I was very happy to see that along those lines, the Wunderbird shirts work like a charm. Just as advertised, the fabric is breathable and has ventilation to keep me comfortable during hot, tropical birding conditions. Because of that, I was surprised to see that I felt just as comfortable in cool, wet cloud forest! I don’t know how it’s possible, but I felt just as comfortable in cool conditions as I did in hot weather and that’s a serious bonus. Of course if it gets too cold, you can always put something on over a Wunderbird shirt, or try the Gyrfalcon hoodie (and who wouldn’t want to wear something named after one of the coolest birds on the planet?).
More testing of the Peregrine at another highland site.
I’m still trying to figure out how these shirts don’t work around here, and haven’t had any success with that yet. I’ll just have to keep going birding in them and that’s alright because it’s almost too comfortable to not wear them.