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If you don't need AF, the 400mm f/5.6 AIS is awesome. It plays nicely with old teleconverters too.
Agreed, but also I would add that if you are willing to spend up to US$ 2,000.00, with luck you can get decent conditions 500mm f/4 P ais EDIF or 600mm f/5.6 ais EDIF. For birding we always need more reach
Burrowing Owl with a 600mm f/5.6 ais by labecoaves, on Flickr
Nikkor AI-S 600mm f/5.6 EDIF, support was a beanbag on the car window sill
D300 1/100s f/8 ISO 200 at ~8m
Colaptes campestris by labecoaves, on Flickr
The Campo Flicker unusually perched in an exotic pine tree.
D300 + Nikkor 600mm f/5.6 AI-S EDIF + TC14EII = 840mm f/8, @ f/8, ISO 800, 1/100s , tripod. The bird was at 30m, ~30% crop.
Vermilion-crowned Flycatcher Myiozetetes similis by labecoaves, on Flickr
D2x + Nikkor 500mm f/4 P AI-S + TC-16A first field tests.
AF is possible with D2 series cameras without any mod of the TC.
Consider this is a 60% crop of original image.