Diverse Splendor of Birds on Display in Audubon Photo Competition

100 of the top submissions can now be viewed online

This image of mute swans won an amateur honorable mention. The photographer thought that the photo represents the struggle for survival—the baby is the only remaining cygnet out of a group of eight. Christopher Schlaf/Audubon Photography Awards/2017 Amateur Honorable Mention
These battling southern carmine bee-eaters were bestowed the youth winner title in the competition. Each of their flights to vie for space were brief, lasting only a few seconds. Zachary Webster/Audubon Photography Awards/2017 Youth Winner
The tiny varied thrush charmed judges, winning the amateur photography category. Heather Roskelley/Audubon Photography Awards/2017 Amateur Winner
This shot of sandhill cranes and snow geese taking flight was taken on a cold and stormy January afternoon. The wait for this moment was worth it, with the image netting an honorable mention in the professional category. Karen R. Schuenemann/Audubon Photography Awards/2017 Professional Honorable Mention
This foreboding image of a black vulture was given an honorable mention in the youth category of the competition. Will Hilscher/Audubon Photography Awards/2017 Youth Honorable Mention
This image of a great gray owl crash landing into a sapling won the professional category. "The bird looked like it was flying drunk," according to the photographer. Steve Mattheis/Audubon Photography Awards/2017 Professional Winner
This grand-prize-winning image captures a touching moment between a parent gentoo penguin and its and chick. Deborah Albert/Audubon Photography Awards/2017 Grand Prize Winner

Each year, the National Audubon Society hosts a competition for photographs that capture the marvelous diversity of birds—their beauty, their vulnerability, their quirks. More than 5,500 photos were submitted for consideration this year. The panel of five judges selected four category winners and three runners up, but 100 of the top images are now available for your viewing pleasure on the Audubon’s website.  

The photos, packed with bursts of vivid plumage, tell stories of the daily dramas that play out among avian populations across the globe. A greedy puffin stuffs his beak with eels. A Muscovy Duck nuzzles her baby under her wing. A Long-eared owl peeps, wide-eyed, through a thicket.

Blurbs detailing the story behind each shot highlight the ingenuity and perseverance of the photographers. William Page Pully, for instance, braved a Massachusetts storm to photograph a Piper Plover chick scurrying back to the safety of its mother. Carole Wiley managed to capture the ten-second finale of an elaborate avian mating ritual. Her submission shows a Bronzed Cowbird hurling itself into the air, its wings down-turned, its feathers fluffed.

The competition’s Grand Prize went to Deborah Albert for her photo of a Gentoo penguin huddling over its chick, their beaks nearly touching. Albert captured the image while travelling in Antarctica; she had purchased her first DSLR camera just before the trip. “I took many shots, but this one, with the parent leaning down, touched me the most—the warmest love in the coldest place,” she explains

The judges ranked the photos for their technical quality, originality and artistic merit. Each of the winners received cash and trip prizes. Their pictures will be displayed in the 2017 Nature's Best Photography Exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

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