The winners of the seventh annual Audubon Photography Awards have just been announced, meaning amazing images of birds for everyone to enjoy.
From a collection of almost 7,000 images, to which more than 1,700 participants contributed, a busy image of a Bald Eagle and a Great Blue Heron kicking off won the Audubon Photography Awards this month.
The people at Audubon were kind enough to share the five overall winners (as well as four honourable mentions) with us to give our readers a taste at the incredibly high standard, and varied approach, of photographers in amateur, professional, fine art and youth categories
A North American project, the location of the photographed birds was quite varied, taking in the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador, Lesbos in Greece and, of course, Yellowstone in the US.
“On a more sombre note,” said the organisers, ”half of the species in the winning and honoured photos are birds identified as threatened or endangered by climate change in Audubon’s Birds and Climate Change Report, which shows that 314 bird species in North America face an uncertain future due to shifting climatic suitability.”
So here are nine incredible images, with the species, photographer and a bit of information for each photograph supplied by Audubon.
Grand Prize Winner – Bald Eagle and Great Blue Heron, pictured at Seabeck in Washington, US. Credit to: Bonnie Block/Audubon Photography Awards. “The majestic Bald Eagle and America’s largest heron are both top-level predators, and they often pursue the same prey. Where concentrations of fish bring them together, clashes may erupt. In a direct standoff, the herons will usually yield to the eagles, but not without a noisy protest.”
Professional Winner – Osprey, pictured at Siesta Key, US. Credit to: Dick Dickinson/Audubon Photography Awards. “Perfectly adapted for feeding on fish, Ospreys are classified in a family by themselves. They have keen eyesight like other raptors, but the act of plunging feet-first to catch fish below the water’s surface requires special skills; young Ospreys must practice for some time before they master the technique.”
Amateur Winner – Eared Grebe, pictured at Yellowstone, US. Credit to: Steve Torna/Audubon Photography Awards. “Of the 20 species of grebes, the Eared Grebe—called the Black-necked Grebe in the Old World—is probably the most numerous. Its population in western North America has been estimated at more than four million, and its nesting colonies on marshy lakes may include hundreds of pairs.”
Youth Winner – Great Frigatebird, pictured on the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador. Credit to: Carolina Anne Fraser/Audubon Photography Awards. “Frigatebirds are the most aerial of all ocean birds. They have to be: With tiny feet, long wings, and a lack of waterproofing in their plumage, they are ill-suited for swimming or taking off from the water. But they can stay aloft for days, probably even sleeping on the wing, until they reach an island or ship where they can perch.”
Fine Art Winner – Green Violetear, pictured in Costa Rica. Credit to: Barbara Driscoll/Audubon Photography. “One of the most widespread of all hummingbird species, the Green Violetear lives in highland forests from Mexico south to Bolivia. Within this broad range it is nomadic, moving around with the seasons. Such wanderings have brought it north of the Mexican border on many occasions, even reaching southern Canada.”
Honorable Mention (Amateur) – Black-winged Stilt, pictured in Lesbos, Greece. Credit to: Artur Stankiewicz/Audubon Photography Awards. “With thin bills and bizarrely long, thin legs, stilts are well adapted to wading in shallows, nabbing tiny prey. It’s a successful niche for stilts on six continents, but they represent only a few distinct types. Some experts lump most of them, including the Black-necked Stilt of North America, into just one species.”
Honorable Mention (Amateur) – Common Raven, pictured in Alberta, USA. Credit to: Colleen Gara/Audubon Photography Awards. “Classified in the same family as jays and crows, the Common Raven is technically considered a songbird, the world’s largest. Driven from large parts of North America by civilisation in centuries past, this adaptable bird is now recolonising many areas.”
Honorable Mention (Fine Art) – Turkey Vulture, pictured in Baja California, Mexico. Credit to: Blake Shaw/Audubon Photography Awards. “Scanning the landscape for carrion, Turkey Vultures usually forage alone, but they gather in communal roosts at night. These roosts may serve as ‘information centres’: Vultures that have failed to find food the previous day may wait to follow those that set off purposefully in the morning.”
Honourable Mention (Amateur) – Piping Plover, pictured in Massachusetts, US. Credit to: Martin V. Sneary/Audubon Photography Awards. “While many sandpipers use long bills to probe in mud for unseen prey, plovers—the other major group of shorebirds—are visual in their approach. With stubby bills and large eyes, Piping Plovers hunt tiny invertebrates on open sand or salt flats, where their pale plumage blends in well.”