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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! 

American Oystercatcher by Greg Gard

American Oystercatcher by Greg Gard

While photographing birds feeding along the shoreline at Nickerson Beach on Long Island, New York, I noticed an adult and juvenile American Oystercatcher walking toward a small puddle of water. Thinking they would soon be taking a bath, I slowly pointed my lens in their direction. To my surprise, the adult bird stopped at the edge of the water, looked around, slowly lowered its head, and started to drink the water, never taking its eyes off me.

After a few seconds, the adult bird gave a quick call and the juvenile oystercatcher came for a drink as well. I’ve spent many days photographing birds at this beach, but I’ve never had a chance to witness such an intimate moment.

This magical experience affirmed for me once again that minimizing posture by staying low on the ground, without rapid movements, will let me gain the trust of birds and yield once-in-a-lifetime photographs.

Gear and settings: Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon EF 600mm f/4 IS II + 1.4x III teleconverter. 1/640s, f/6.3, ISO 800. Lens mounted on a homemade ground pod to achieve low-angle perspective.

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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