2021 Backyard and City Birds Photo Contest Finalists

In late 2021, we sent out a call for entries to our first ever Backyard and City Birds Contest, here on our website. Bird photographers entered more than 600 images taken in yards, parks, and other urban and suburban spots. Thanks to everyone who entered the contest!

Entries included images of owls, hummingbirds, cardinals, jays, finches, and more — from hundreds of photographers. The selection of images was outstanding, and our judges had a challenging task! Today we are proud to present the finalist photos, featured in the following slideshow. Each caption tells the story behind the photo, from the photographers themselves. Enjoy!

We’ll announce the winners on Friday, April 29, and will feature them in our July/August issue.

Snowy Owl

Snowy Owl

Photo by Michael McAuliffe

In November 2020, a female or immature male Snowy Owl was spotted perching on several rooftops in the Queen Anne neighborhood near downtown Seattle. Snowy Owls are not frequent visitors to western Washington, however, every few years an owl, or in an irruption year even several owls, show up for what are typically brief visits of a day or two. This Snowy Owl must have really liked Seattle. Instead of just passing through, the owl stayed through the Christmas and New Year’s holidays and became a local celebrity during a two-month visit. Birdwatchers and photographers flocked to see the avian celebrity that was featured in the local newspaper and on local TV news.

I was one of those photographers. The chance to photograph an amazing owl with just a short drive to a local neighborhood was too good to pass up. I found the owl on an unusual (for Seattle) sunny and clear December day and unlike tracking wild birds to photograph, it didn’t take long to find the Snowy Owl. The owl’s location was quickly given away by a group of people hanging out in an alley staring up at the roof of a nearby house. I snapped hundreds of photos of the owl roosting on the mossy roof and my 500mm lens provided good photos without getting too close to the bird.

For several hours the owl rested on the roof, most of the time with its eyes closed. However, the bird briefly perked up and gave me a great pose with its piercing yellow eyes wide open.

Seattle, Washington, December 2020

Want to see more? Here are our 12 honorable mention photos.