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Third place: 2022 Birds in Flight Contest

Barred Owl and Common Grackle
© Rebecca DePorte/2022 Birds in Flight Contest

Third place in our 2022 Birds in Flight Contest goes to Rebecca DePorte of Princeton, New Jersey. In mid-April 2022, Rebecca was observing a Barred Owl at Blue Cypress Lake in Vero Beach, Florida.

“Suddenly three Common Grackles appeared and began flying at the owl,” she says. “At first, the owl sat still and refused to give up its perch, but after four grackle attacks, it began shifting its position and looking across the lake. I raised my camera and started taking photos just as it took off out of the tree. To my amazement, one of the grackles had landed on the owl’s back and, carrying its meal, an anole lizard, appeared to be hitching a ride across the lake with the owl.”

The grackles were mobbing the owl — a behavior in which smaller birds gang up on larger owls and raptors to drive them away from nests or other sensitive sites. Rebecca won third place with the image, a terrific illustration of mobbing behavior.

She took the photo with a Nikon Z 9 and a 500mm f/5.6 lens. Exposure data: 1/3200 @ f/8.0, ISO 12,800, exposure compensation +0.33.

Many thanks to our panel of guest judges: Contributing Editors Laura Erickson, Pete Dunne, and Brian E. Small; professional photographer Marie Read; Outdoor Photographer editors Dan Havlik and Kristan Ashworth; and Imaging Resource Managing Editor William Brawley.

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