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2021 Bird Portrait Contest finalists

Last fall, we sent out a call for entries to our 2021 Bird Portrait Contest, here on our website. And, wow, did bird photographers deliver! We received the most entries ever — 979 — since we started hosting contests a few years ago!

Entries included images of owls, hummingbirds, ducks, eagles, pelicans, warblers, toucans, and more — from hundreds of photographers. Thanks to everyone who entered! The selection of images was outstanding, as all of our previous contests have been. The judges had a challenging task! Today we are proud to present the finalist photos, featured in the following slideshow. We’ll announce the winners on Friday, February 25. 

Each caption tells the story behind the photo, from the photographers themselves, and it lists the camera gear they used and their settings. Enjoy! 

Black Skimmers by Ana Bowers

Black Skimmers by Ana Bowers

This was the second time I had gone to observe the colony of Black Skimmers nesting on Lido Key, Florida, and this time I had my camera. The Audubon Society volunteers had roped off a large area for the birds' comfort, and I camped myself on the sand at the outskirts with my 600mm lens, hoping to capture impactful behavior. The skimmer families were fascinating to watch, and some opportunities were missed just by being engrossed so much in observation that I forgot to click the shutter! I was fortunate to capture this image, however, of a parent feeding his brood. The nests are just a dell in the sand, and the chicks are of staggered ages. In this image, you can see an egg still unhatched. The parents are very protective, as crows and gulls can sweep in and grab young chicks, and not infrequently do. All in all, a beautiful morning of insight into a Black Skimmer’s world.

Gear and settings: Sony a7r4, 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS Lens, on RRS tripod close to ground level. Exposure: f/6.3, 1/400s, ISO 100 at 600mm.

Can’t get enough? Here are the 10 honorable mention images from the 2021 Bird Portrait Contest! 

Enter our current contest, the 2022 BirdWatching Photography Awards

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