This year photographers from across the United States and Canada submitted more than 8,000 images to the ninth annual Audubon Photography Awards, and our panel of expert judges whittled down the entries to four
. We know you want to see more of the entries, so every year we select 100 additional photographs to share. Displayed in no particular order, the images here feature birds in all their varied glory, from intimate portraits of family life to fascinating feeding behavior to massive flocks in motion.
Settle in and prepare to be delighted by the variety of birdlife and the story behind each shot—we certainly were. And should the stunning images spark an interest in picking up a camera to capture the beauty of birds, check out our
; it’s got everything you need to get started, including
tips and how-to’s
recommendations. Next year, it could be your shot that makes the cut.
Photographer: Cindy Goeddel
Species: Golden-fronted Woodpecker
Location: Ambergris Caye, Belize
Story Behind the Shot: Goeddel is accustomed to hard-earned photographs achieved by spending long hours in unforgiving conditions. But that’s not always the case. While on vacation on Ambergris Caye, Belize’s largest island, she enjoyed photographing this Golden-fronted Woodpecker nest cavity over several days, and captured this image of one of many morning food deliveries as both parents worked tirelessly to bring insects and fruit to their ravenous young.
Photographer: Judy Lynn Malloch
Location: Santa Clara Ranch, McCook, TX
Story Behind the Shot: At Santa Clara Ranch, a wildlife sanctuary in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, Malloch observed territorial behavior among birds visiting a watering hole—conduct she captured in this photo of a feisty Pyrrhuloxia, a close relative of the Northern Cardinal that inhabits the desert Southwest. The songbird’s aggressive posture may be intended to scare off other birds, but viewers can’t help but be drawn to the Pyrrhuloxia’s beautiful colors in Malloch’s photo.
Photographer: Feng Qiao
Species: White-tailed Ptarmigan
Location: Kananaskis, Alberta, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: It took two years, and four visits, to Kananaskis Country, a park system west of Calgary, before Qiao finally photographed one of the elusive, elegantly camouflaged White-tailed Ptarmigans that live there. He was just in time: One week later, the road he took into the park would be closed for the winter season. The thick snow allowed Qiao to bury himself and hide from the bird, and provided a dreamlike foreground for the image.
Photographer: Susan Ellison
Species: Snowy Plover
Location: San Luis Pass, Galveston, TX
Story Behind the Shot: Sometimes mistakes create opportunities. Ellison was supposed to meet a photographer friend on the beach, but she got lost and ended up at a different spot. Then she realized she’d forgotten a key piece of gear for taking low-angle shots. Determined not to waste the remaining evening light, Ellison soldiered on, eventually encountering this Snowy Plover foraging by itself. Making do with the gear at hand, she came away with this image of the fast-moving plover and its reflection in the retreating surf.
Photographer: Cynthia Herrick
Species: Snowy Egret
Location: Anna Maria Island, FL
Story Behind the Shot: After being in a head-on car crash, Herrick’s friends invited her to recuperate at their home on Florida’s Gulf Coast, where she became fascinated by the local bird life. As the sun was setting one evening, Herrick lay on the beach, propped herself up on her elbows, camera at the ready, and waited. Before long, this Snowy Egret approached, too focused on a house fly to notice the photographer. Just after Herrick snapped this photo, the egret harpooned and gobbled the fly.
Photographer: Kevin Malo
Species: American Coot
Location: Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center, Port Aransas, TX
Story Behind the Shot: Malo says he’s long hoped to capture a close-up of the American Coot’s clownish lobed toes, which help the birds navigate marshy habitat. He finally got the chance on the boardwalk at a favorite birding hotspot, the Leonabelle Turnbull Birding Center along the Texas Gulf Coast. The boardwalk and surrounding landscape suffered heavy damage last year during Hurricane Harvey, but restoration efforts are underway.
Photographer: Caroline Samson
Location: Bowdoinham, ME
Story Behind the Shot: It was June, and the buttercups and daisies were in bloom in Samson’s horse pasture. When she saw this male Bobolink singing from a sapling among the wildflowers, she knew she had to photograph it. A barrier of shrubs and trees along the pasture’s edge provided the cover Samson needed to get this shot without spooking the bird. She chose a wide-open aperture to let the flowers blur while keeping the Bobolink in sharp focus.
Photographer: Charles D. Johnson
Species: Common Loon
Location: Washington, NH
Story Behind the Shot: For more than a decade, Johnson and his wife have helped New Hampshire’s Loon Preservation Committee to monitor a pair of Common Loons that nest each year on Island Pond, a 200-acre glacial lake. Here, while her partner fishes across the lake, the female rests in the shallows on a warm summer evening against a colorful backdrop of aquatic plants.
Photographer: Liron Gertsman
Species: Red-necked Phalarope
Location: Delta, British Columbia, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: Gertsman spends countless hours each year photographing shorebirds as they migrate through Canada’s Fraser River Delta near his Vancouver home. One August day, he spotted this juvenile Red-necked Phalarope foraging on its own at low tide. Gertsman carefully approached close enough to photograph it with a 400mm lens. The bird, apparently oblivious to the photographer, soon moved too close for the telephoto lens. Gertsman switched to a wide-angle lens, delivering this shot of the phalarope in its habitat.
Photographer: Liron Gertsman
Species: Steller’s Jay
Location: West Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: Some of Gertsman’s earliest memories are of Steller’s Jays visiting his family’s backyard hazelnut tree in autumn. They may be common and familiar—Steller’s Jays are the provincial bird of British Columbia, where he lives—but Gertsman was still thrilled to see this one while on a winter hike. He was dazzled by its blue plumage against the white snow. After shooting close-ups of the cooperative corvid, he focused on wider-angle shots—like this one—to show the bird’s natural surroundings.
Photographer: Bob Schamerhorn
Species: Great Egret
Location: St. Augustine, FL
Story Behind the Shot: At a St. Augustine rookery popular with photographers, Schamerhorn decided to use his longest telephoto lens to see if he could capture an intimate interaction between this Great Egret parent and offspring. To get the shot he wanted, he needed the adult to bend down toward the chick—a frustratingly rare event. Schamerhorn finally captured this moment when the parent woke the chick while tending the nest, its legs and plumage symmetrically framing the youngster’s wild hairdo.
Photographer: Peter Brannon
Species: Reddish Egret
Location: Fort De Soto Park, St. Petersburg, FL
Story Behind the Shot: Reddish Egrets are flamboyant hunters, often flapping their substantial wings and running through the shallows to stir up prey. Brannon lay in the water for a low-angle shot of this egret foraging at low tide, making a bipod of his elbows to steady the camera. When the bird spooked a school of small fish, Brannon snapped his shutter as they leaped into frame.
Photographer: Jesse Gordon
Species: American Oystercatcher
Location: Nickerson Beach Park, Lido Beach, NY
Story Behind the Shot: Gordon was flat on the ground as this American Oystercatcher family approached, both to photograph them from eye level and to avoid disturbing them. The chicks strolled close alongside their parents, watching carefully as the adults dug for sand crabs. Soon they passed right in front of the camera, offering a glimpse of what Gordon calls “a tender and fascinating family moment” and a window into the lives of these beautiful shorebirds.
Photographer: Karl Bardon
Species: Common Goldeneye
Location: Canal Park, Duluth, MN
Story Behind the Shot: The shipping canal in Duluth only ices over during the coldest weather, making it a great spot to find overwintering Common Goldeneyes. Bardon, a local, regularly visits to photograph the striking ducks. On this subzero morning, just after sunrise, he found the birds clustered in the last remaining window of open water, with “sea smoke” rising in the air. Bardon caught this photo of a rowdy moment when the flock skittered across the water, sending spray into the frigid air.
Photographer: Robert Rommel
Species: Barred Owl
Location: Circle B Bar Reserve, Lakeland, FL
Story Behind the Shot: Any visitor with a phone could have snagged an Instagram-worthy photo of the Barred Owl pair that built their nest right above a popular hiking trail in central Florida’s Circle B Bar Reserve. But Rommel didn’t want just any shot—he spent a week with the duo, waiting for the ideal composition and perfect light. Early one morning, it all came together. Rommel resisted the temptation to move closer to the cooperative owl, instead opting to photograph from a distance in order to show the serene bird surrounded by live oaks draped in Spanish moss.
Photographer: Peter Ismert
Species: Greater Sage-Grouse
Location: North Park, near Walden, CO
Story Behind the Shot: The Greater Sage-Grouse’s elaborate courtship displays have long fascinated Ismert, so he was excited to learn about a lek—the grounds where they perform their flashy dance—a few hours from his Denver home. He arrived in the early-morning dark and, using his vehicle as a blind, watched in awe as sunrise revealed sage-grouse displaying all around him. Ismert took home many photos from the visit, but this image of a male strutting through the snow is his favorite.
Photographer: Dale Preston
Species: Atlantic Puffin
Location: Machias Seal Island, Maine/New Brunswick
Story Behind the Shot: Tiny Machias Seal Island, claimed by both the United States and Canada, is one of the world’s best sites for Atlantic Puffin photography. Preston was hidden in one of the island’s bird blinds as this fast-moving puffin approached. Behind it, he noticed a fishing vessel skirting the shore, and hoped to capture bird and boat in a single shot. His timing was perfect, nicely catching both the puffin’s dramatic features and the area’s maritime heritage.
Photographer: Tim Boyer
Species: Western Grebe
Location: Ocean Shores, WA
Story Behind the Shot: Conventional wisdom used to hold that Western Grebes, with feet far back on their bodies, couldn’t walk on land. Add Boyer’s shot to a growing body of evidence that, while they’re far more agile on water, grebes can toddle along when they need to. Boyer spotted this bird resting on a beach as storm clouds cleared, and nabbed the shot from his vehicle, using bean bags to steady the camera. As the sun drew more beachgoers, the grebe staggered to the water’s edge and swam away.
Photographer: Christopher Schlaf
Species: Wood Duck
Location: Washington Township, MI
Story Behind the Shot: Schlaf is fortunate to have a small lake near his home that hosts a wide variety of waterfowl species. He found this Wood Duck pair there one day and—correctly guessing from its behavior that it was about to take off—locked his camera’s focus on the male. Schlaf’s hunch, coupled with excellent morning light, enabled him to freeze the male’s wings and highlight its rich colors, while also showing the female in crystal-clear focus.
Photographer: Roger van Gelder
Species: Say’s Phoebe
Location: Coronado National Forest, Sierra Vista, AZ
Story Behind the Shot: When he shoots fast-moving birds with his favorite manual-focus lens, van Gelder often ends up with photos of tail feathers and not much else. But he was quick to the draw when a Say’s Phoebe perched briefly in the grass at the historic Brown Canyon Ranch, now part of the Coronado National Forest. The bird was backlit, but the early morning light, which van Gelder had slept in his car to capture, created a mellow golden glow.
Photographer: Dave Shaffer
Species: Pine Grosbeak
Location: Stone Lake, WI
Story Behind the Shot: Gazing out the window of his home while sipping coffee one frigid morning, Shaffer was surprised to see a group of Pine Grosbeaks, rare visitors to his Wisconsin woods. He tucked his pajama bottoms into his boots, threw on a coat, grabbed his camera and tripod, and headed outside. He realized that it was colder than he thought. Way colder: It was 10 below zero. He wasn’t wearing gloves. His breath kept fogging the viewfinder. Luckily, this female grosbeak landed in a nearby spruce. Shaffer held his breath, got the shot, and went back inside for hot coffee.
Photographer: Barb D’Arpino
Species: Burrowing Owl
Location: Cape Coral, FL
Story Behind the Shot: By staying low to the ground and keeping her distance, D’Arpino has been able to document the natural behavior of Burrowing Owls on her regular photography trips to Florida. On this visit, she found a mother tidying up her burrow by kicking sand and debris out of the opening—smack into one of her owlets. D’Arpino wondered why the youngster didn’t flee the line of fire, but was happy to photograph this slapstick scene just as the sun broke over the horizon.
Photographer: Cindy Goeddel
Species: American Dipper
Location: Yellowstone National Park
Story Behind the Shot: Goeddel spends enough time shooting in Yellowstone National Park to know that, on clear September days, twilight paints the LeHardy Rapids stretch of the Yellowstone River in swirls of blue and gold. On one such evening, she found this American Dipper diving and splashing in the rapids. The bird emerged holding a leaf, which it examined closely, turning it 360 degrees in its bill before dropping it in the river and watching it float away.
Photographer: Carol Grenier
Species: Western Grebe
Location: Pyramid Lake, Washoe County, NV
Story Behind the Shot: After a severe drought, an extremely wet winter brought a welcome recharge to many bodies of water in Nevada. Hundreds of pairs of Clark’s and Western Grebes nested in a formerly dry section of Pyramid Lake, but many of their nests flooded before the chicks could hatch. This young Western Grebe survived. Here the adults feed the young bird their soft, downy feathers, which are thought to help providing cushioning against sharp fish bones.
Photographer: Liron Gertsman
Species: Barn Swallow
Location: Stanley Park, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: Before they’re ready to hunt on their own, Barn Swallow fledglings will perch near their nest and wait for their parents to make food deliveries. The adults don’t land, instead hovering briefly to drop insects into a youngster’s mouth. Keeping his distance and hiding behind some foliage, Gertsman was able to photograph this fascinating behavior on a summer morning in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. His photo shows the colorful, dutiful parent in beautiful detail.
Photographer: Mike Timmons
Species: Sedge Wren
Location: Lye Creek Prairie Burn, Crawfordsville, IN
Story Behind the Shot: The Burn, part of the larger Lye Creek Prairie, is a wetland complex surrounded by farm fields. In late summer, Timmons says, “it is wren heaven.” He and his brother arrived at sunrise on a dewy August day and heard wrens calling all around them. This Sedge Wren seemingly forgot that its species is known for skulking unseen through marsh grasses: It perched in plain sight on a cattail and investigated the photographers before resuming more traditional wren-like behavior.
Photographer: Rhys Logan
Species: Burrowing Owl
Location: Joaquina Beach, Florianópolis, Brazil
Story Behind the Shot: Accustomed to seeing Burrowing Owls at home in Washington state, Logan was surprised to find the widespread birds surrounded by sunburnt tourists at Joaquina Beach. He was grateful to have a telephoto lens on hand so could capture this scene with no risk of disturbing the bird. Perched on a cactus in a light rain, the owl shot Logan a glare that, to him, said: That’s close enough, pal.
Photographer: Khurram Khan
Species: Snowy Owl
Location: Island Beach State Park, Seaside Park, NJ
Story Behind the Shot: When Khan learned about the irruption of Snowy Owls in the Northeast in December 2017, he headed for Island Beach State Park, a barrier island off the New Jersey coast. At one end of the 10-mile-long ribbon of sand he spotted a Snowy hunkered down on the beach. Khan’s goal in composing this ethereal image was to convey the similarities between the beach and the bird’s home on the Arctic tundra; both have wide-open, treeless expanses where these hunters stalk prey.
Photographer: Tom Warren
Species: Mourning Dove
Location: Dobbs Ferry, NY
Story Behind the Shot: Warren wasn’t expecting a commonplace Mourning Dove to steal the show when he set out for a snowy day of bird photography behind his home about 20 miles north of New York City. But this resting dove perfectly conjured the peaceful quiet of a winter day. “The art of nature often catches us by surprise,” he says. Warren was charmed by the way snow buildup on the bird’s back echoed the icy accumulation on the branch where it perched.
Photographer: Marc Yankus
Species: Adélie Penguin
Location: Kinnes Cove, Antarctica
Story Behind the Shot: Yankus describes a Zodiac boat excursion along the coast of Kinnes Cove as “pure magic” and the highlight of a three-week tour of Antarctica. Adélie Penguins lined up on seaside rocks, taking turns diving into the ocean, while blue icebergs floated all around on the surface. But this was the scene that most captivated Yankus: thousands of Adélies moving about on a large glacier, like skiers on a mountainside—an image at once dynamic and elemental.
Photographer: Veloy Cook
Species: Northern Pygmy-Owl
Location: Provo Canyon, UT
Story Behind the Shot: Cook and his children, Chloe and Spencer, bundled up and piled into the truck for an early-morning winter shoot in Utah’s Wasatch Mountains. Arriving at a spot where he’d previously seen Northern Pygmy-Owls, Cook was delighted to round a corner and find this pint-sized predator perched on a snow-dusted seed stalk. The light was just right and the owl was tolerant, giving Cook time to compose the shot. More rewarding than the photograph, he says, was the chance to share this special moment with his kids.
Photographer: Liron Gertsman
Species: Bald Eagle
Location: Harrison Mills, British Columbia, Canada
Story Behind the Shot: Every winter Gertsman visits the area around Harrison Mills in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley to photograph hundreds of Bald Eagles that gather to feast on spawning salmon. He always checks out a gnarled stump, clearly visible from a viewing platform on the edge of the river flats, because there is usually at least one eagle perched on it. As he was photographing a Baldy on the stump, a second one flew in, and Gertsman captured both in one shot.
Photographer: Mary D’Agostino
Species: Sandhill Crane
Location: Audubon Rowe Sanctuary, Gibbon, NE
Story Behind the Shot: Each spring, half a million Sandhill Cranes spend a few weeks resting in Nebraska’s Platte River basin, fattening up on waste corn before winging to nesting grounds in Alaska, Canada, and Siberia. The staging cranes, which mate for life, also build and strengthen pair bonds on the Platte through ritual dancing like the corn toss depicted here. D’Agostino hid out in a ditch for hours to capture this quirky behavior in action.
Photographer: B.N. Singh
Species: Piping Plover
Location: Gateway National Recreation Area, Highlands, NJ
Story Behind the Shot: Piping Plover chicks can leave the nest and feed themselves just hours after hatching. It takes several days, however, before they’re able to keep themselves warm, so in cool weather the puffballs periodically return to a parent to huddle under its wing. Using a long lens so he could avoid a protected area where these vulnerable birds nest, Singh snapped this photo of a quick warm-up session as a plover family scooted from its nest to the shoreline to feed.
Photographer: Jacob McGinnis
Species: Golden-crowned Kinglet
Location: Cottage Lake Park, Woodinville, WA
Story Behind the Shot: When McGinnis showed this photo of a Golden-crowned Kinglet to friends and family, they couldn’t believe the bird was a common, native inhabitant of their Seattle-area neighborhoods. It’s easy to see why they thought the bird, with its flame-yellow Mohawk, must be a tropical vagrant. McGinnis takes a camera everywhere he goes, so he was ready when this bird landed nearby during an afternoon walk in the park. The way it is displaying its crest to ward off other nearby males makes for an especially vivid photo.
Photographer: Vishal Subramanyan
Species: Great Horned Owl
Location: Livermore, CA
Story Behind the Shot: Subramanyan spent every weekend evening for several weeks at a regional park near his Bay Area home, watching as a pair of nesting Great Horned Owls hunted rodents to feed their chicks. At last, in late April, he finally snapped a photograph of bird and prey together. Subramanyan counts himself lucky to see the birds hunting in the day, let alone to come home with this arresting image of his subjects bathed in evening light.
Photographer: Harry Colquhoun
Species: King Penguin
Location: St. Andrews Bay, South Georgia Island
Story Behind the Shot: Colquhoun could hear—and smell—the King Penguins of St. Andrews Bay before he and his shipmates disembarked on South Georgia Island. The birds blanketed the coast as far as he could see. Amid the masses, a single penguin slowly plodding over hills toward shore caught Colquhoun’s attention. It was surely heading out to sea to hunt for prey; if it evaded marine predators, it would then make the long journey back to feed its lone chick. The image, Colquhoun says, demonstrates this remote island’s harsh environment and the toughness required for penguins to survive.
Photographer: Mike Valigore
Species: Variegated Fairywren
Location: Manly, New South Wales, Australia
Story Behind the Shot: While living abroad in Australia, Colorado photographer Valigore often walked the popular Manly to Spit Bridge coastal trail to take in the birdlife. On a November day, he spotted a male Variegated Fairywren showing off its bright colors as it pursued a couple of females. Valigore snapped several shots of the birds flitting back and forth across the trail, but his favorite was this quiet image of the male perched confidently, its splashy plumage contrasting with the drab thicket.
Photographer: Cindy Goeddel
Species: Mallard and bobcat
Location: Yellowstone National Park
Story Behind the Shot: Goeddel huddled in a snow pit for nearly five hours on a zero-degree day to get this dramatic photo. When a bobcat spotted a drake Mallard downstream, it used a bison trail through the deep snow to stalk unseen along the Madison River to within striking distance. For nine interminable minutes the predator watched the duck swimming in circles, seemingly waiting for the right moment to make its move. Finally, when the Mallard’s head was down, the cat leapt. After nearly a minute-long struggle in the water, the bobcat carried away its prey.
Photographer: Joanie Christian
Species: American Robin
Location: Colville, WA
Story Behind the Shot: Each year after Christmas, a variety of birds—waxwings, flickers, starlings, and more—descend on an ornamental fruit tree in Christian’s yard, picking it clean in a matter of days. That brief period is a photographer’s dream situation. American Robins, not typically found around her home in winter, sometimes stick around for the feast.
Photographer: Joe Galkowski
Species: Western Screech-Owl
Location: Solano County, CA
Story Behind the Shot: When a friend told him she’d spotted a Western Screech-Owl a couple of hours’ drive from his California home, Galkowski was intrigued. He had never seen the species, so decided to look for it. He arrived early, found the owl’s tree cavity, and set up a tripod with his longest lens combo. Late in the morning the bird appeared, looked around for a moment, and then promptly went to sleep. Galkowski photographed the bird with its eyes open, but he was more excited by the sleepy behavior and ingenious camouflage highlighted here.
Photographer: Ali Dhanji
Species: Red-billed Quelea and Southern Gray-headed Sparrow
Location: Mashatu Game Reserve, Jwaneng, Botswana
Story Behind the Shot: Dhanji’s family regularly vacationed at Mashatu Game Reserve while living in Botswana, where the amateur photographer discovered an underground hide near a watering hole provided an eye-level view of a wide range of wildlife, including the Red-billed Quelea (and one Southern Gray-headed Sparrow) pictured here. Quelea flocks arrived and departed the site together, providing a perfect opportunity for this shot of the birds in different stages of flight as they enjoyed an early morning drink.
Photographer: Liron Gertsman
Species: Western Sandpiper
Location: Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit, Mexico
Story Behind the Shot: At home in British Columbia, Gertsman spends many hours each year crawling along coastal mudflats to photograph some of the millions of shorebirds that migrate along the Pacific Flyway. On a winter trip to Mexico’s Pacific coast, he couldn’t help but wonder if any of the flocks gathered there were the same ones he’d