Whether it’s a gray-feathered bird plunging face first into a stream at Yosemite National Park or a jewel-like hummingbird frolicking in the fountain at a local California farm, avian life is omnipresent—and their world is closely intertwined with our own. As much as the pandemic has forced many of us indoors, it’s also directed our eyes outward—and given us the chance to observe, document, and revel in the transient moments of beauty that birds afford us.
Each year, the Audubon Photography Awards unveils intimate snapshots of these winged creatures. The 11th annual contest amassed over 6,000 submissions from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., seven Canadian provinces, and many other countries, such as Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Belize. Over a day-long Zoom call, judges, who ranged from wildlife photographers to bird experts, narrowed down the pool to ten winners and honorable mentions. Some of those choices, along with selects from the Audubon editors’ Top 100, are displayed below.
Joanna Lentini, professional photographer and winner of the Grand Prize, spent hours underwater in the Bay of La Paz in Mexico documenting diving double-crested cormorants and their failed attempts to snap up sardines. “Although I spent a long time admiring these birds, I didn’t see a single one catch a fish,” Lentini told Audubon. “Adding insult to injury, curious sea lion pups would zip by the hunting birds and nip at them from behind.”
Bird photography can be as intensive as spending hours underwater with a waterproof camera, or as simple as stepping into your backyard or local park. This series of exceptional images reveals the stunning diversity of feathered species—from woodpeckers braving icy snow to bare-throated tiger herons showing off their telling feature—and how they thrive all over the world in vastly differing habitats.