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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! 

Great Gray Owls by Steve Large

Great Gray Owls by Steve Large

This image was captured during a trip to the British Columbia interior mountains near Kamloops.

We travel to this area every spring and summer in an attempt to photograph the Great Gray Owls and their owlets. It is not always a successful trip, and at times we come away without any photographs. It is often a matter of just the right timing with images like this one.

The owlets depicted here were waiting for the adults to return with fresh food. We found them by hearing their shrieks up a nearby hill from the logging road that we were walking on. It was unusual that they returned to their original nest as they had already fledged and were quite capable of flying away to other more secluded areas.

It all started with one owl being curious about something in their nest. Perhaps an old scrap of food? Once one owl went to investigate, he managed to raise the curiosity of the other two owls and they soon joined him in the nest tree. I took several shots from about 75 feet away with the sun at my back before they finally all looked in my direction at the same time. It was a fleeting moment. One I will never forget.

Gear and settings: Sony A92 (ILCE-9M2), Sony FE 200–600 mm F5.6–6.3 G OSS lens (hand-held). Shutter speed 1/4000, ISO 2500, f/6.3.

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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