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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! 

Sandhill Cranes by Karen Griggs Winchester

Sandhill Cranes by Karen Griggs Winchester
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Sandhill Crane colts are one of my favorites to photograph because when hatched, they are fully downed and in hours are ready to go. Within eight hours they can leave the nest by walking or swimming.

Their behavior as siblings shows the wonders of discovery and rivalry! With these particular colts, the eldest continued to remind his younger brother that he was superior and in charge.

As I watched and photographed the pair, I noticed the younger colt retreat by climbing up on mom’s back, disappearing under all the feathers. It wasn’t long before the elder brother noticed his absence and started looking for him. His search ended as he, too, climbed up on mother’s back, disappearing under the feathers. I watched and waited… and like an answer to prayer, the mother gently and slowly spread open her wings, revealing the two colts looking straight at each other.

As the colts again began to play, mom accommodated them even more by opening her wings yet further. It then was more like a little bedroom complete with a feather bed and walls of mother’s strong, beautiful wings keeping them safe.

I couldn’t have asked for or imagined a more beautiful scene to photograph. I treasure the experience and photos as the amazing gifts they are.

Gear and settings: Canon 1 DX Mark ll, Canon 400mm 2.8 ll lens with 2Xlll extender and tripod. ISO 1000, f/5.6, 1/1000 sec.


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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