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.