The second-place winner in our 2021 Birds in Flight contest is Ed Hughes, with this photo of an Eastern Kingbird mobbing a much larger Great Egret. He took the image in June 2018 at a small pond in his hometown of North Kingstown, Rhode Island.
“It’s pretty much an overlooked spot,” Hughes says. “The year before I saw the kingbird attack a Great Blue Heron at the pond. I was able to get a shot of it in the heron’s wing, but I missed it on its neck. I never saw it happen again that year. I went back the next year and the kingbirds nested almost in the same spot. I waited three days for this encounter.”
Contributing Editor Laura Erickson, one of our judges, praised the photo’s action and detail.
“When I taught junior high,” she says, “my students loved learning that the Eastern Kingbird’s scientific name is Tyrannus tyrannus — tyrant of all tyrants. This photo provides dramatic proof that the name is deserved, especially when you consider that egrets easily stab and capture live prey many times heavier than a 1 1/2-ounce kingbird. I’ve taken dozens of photos of kingbirds attacking larger birds, including Bald Eagles, but none of them capture a perfect moment as this photo does. Both birds’ bodies and faces are in focus and eyes open. The egret appears to be in a state of panic, the kingbird’s extended leg and grasping toes hanging tight to the egret’s neck. And the pièce de résistance? The kingbird’s beautifully exposed crown, something never easy to see, much less capture so vividly in a photo. Brilliant!”
Hughes took the photo with a Nikon D810 camera body and a 400mm f/2.8 lens. Settings: speed 2500, f/4, ISO 1000.
You can see more bird and wildlife photos by Hughes on his website.
Many thanks to our panel of guest judges: author, radio host, and Contributing Editor Laura Erickson; our former photo editor Ernie Mastroianni; Outdoor Photographer Editor Wes Pitts; and Imaging Resource Managing Editor William Brawley.