What to look for:
- Good quality glass (multi-coated, BAK4)
- Close focus - less than 16 feet
- Field of view > 330 ft @ 1000 yds(over 350 is even better!)
- 8x, 9x or 10x zoom (recommended: 8x42)
- Waterproof, fogproof
Good sources are Binoculars.com or EagleOptics.com. If you're looking for something under $100, the Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Roof Prism binoculars would be a good choice ($70-$80). Nice feature is the attached lens covers -- rare in a low-end binocular!
A field guide is a book that helps you identify birds and is small enough to carry around in the field (although, frankly, they are too big for most pockets!). There are many available and each birder tends to have their preferences. There is a new one out in 2008 that is designed for young birders. It's called The Young Birder's Guide to Birds of Eastern North America (Peterson Field Guides ) by Bill Thompson III and Julie Zickefoose. Great for starting out. Biggest problem may be that it might not include all of our Louisiana birds. The standard field guide that I reach for is David Sibley's The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America. I do like Kenn Kaufman's new field guide too -- Kaufman Field Guide to Birds of North America. And then, of course, is the updated classic Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America by Roger Tory Peterson, father of American birding field guides.
Thayer birding software produces a great product that every birder should own (IMHO). Not only is it an electronic field guide with all the features of a printed guide, but it also has multiple pictures and often video for the birds listed. It also has sounds for each bird, and even has a function for uploading the sounds to an ipod. This software features aids to figure out bird identities and dozens of quizzes that can be used for improving birding skills. It's quite complete and very useful.