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2020 Bird Portrait contest finalists

In late 2020, BirdWatching received more than 700 photos entered into our Bird Portrait contest from hundreds of photographers. Thanks to everyone who entered! The selection of images was stellar, as all of our previous contests have been. The judges had a challenging task! Today we are proud to present the 12 finalist photos, featured in the following slideshow. 

We’ll announce the three winning images here on our website tomorrow, and they’ll be featured in our May/June issue.

Allen's Hummingbird by Elizabeth Van Dyke

Allen's Hummingbird by Elizabeth Van Dyke

Elizabeth Van Dyke photographed this Allen's Hummingbird in March 2019 at the UC-Santa Cruz Arboretum and Botanic Garden in Santa Cruz, California.

"Allen’s Hummingbirds are one of my favorite birds to photograph," she says. "Their throat feathers, or gorget, play a trick with light. These feathers are not actually colored orange but contain thin platelets like tiles. Light waves reflect and refract off the throat feathers and make them look like brilliant orange feathers when the sun hits them just right. When the light is not at the right angle, they lose their brilliant color.

"To create this image I moved back and forth and waited until the bird lifted its head so the light was just right. There were green trees in the distant background so I set my camera to f/5.6 to blur them. Using 1/80 of a second was taking a chance on getting a blurry photo but it was slow enough to show the movement of the wings and tail.

I enjoy creating images of wild birds in flight. I had tried a long time to show the tail feathers as they flay open right as the hummingbird is taking off. I was delighted to finally succeed.

Equipment and settings: Nikon D850 camera. Nikkor 500mm f/4.0 lens with a 1.4x teleconverter equaling 700mm. Tripod: Really Right Stuff TVC-24L. Gimbal Tripod Head: Wimberley WH-200. No flash was used. ISO 200, f/5.6, 1/80 second.

Many thanks to our panel of guest judges: our Founding Editor and “Amazing Birds” columnist Eldon Greij; author, radio host, and Contributing Editor Laura Erickson; and Outdoor Photographer Editor Wes Pitts. 

View the 12 honorable mentions from our 2020 Bird Portrait contest

View the finalists from our 2019 Bird Portrait contest

UPDATE, MARCH 12: We have announced the winners!

First place: Cedar Waxwing

Second place: Elegant Trogon

Third place: Wood Duck

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