As the Summer 2019 issue of the magazine was going to press, hundreds of bird species were winging their way over New York City, where Audubon has its headquarters, searching for patches of greenery in the sea of concrete to rest and refuel. Our staff knows this better than most. We headed outside—before work, during lunch, after work—in search of elusive timberdoodles and nemesis warblers. We found them, and then some, under bushes and tucked into trees.
But to birds, not all plants have the same value. They evolved with native species, which research shows attract a far greater concentration and variety of insects—critical protein for migrating birds and, eventually, chicks—and more nutritious berries and seeds. That’s why Audubon launched its Plants for Birds program, with a database that enables you to look up plants (and the birds they support) native to your zip code. And it’s why we added a Plants for Birds category to the Audubon Photography Awards.
At Audubon magazine we understand well the power of photographs to tell a story. Context matters—the details left in and, sometimes, those that have been left out. So we wanted to create a platform and incentive to celebrate birds’ relationship with their environment, and to call attention to a simple but important choice people can make for their own yards and communities to help ensure birds’ survival.
Photographers can use their craft to take this concept even further. By following the ethic of conservation photography, anyone who wields a camera can strive for their images to advocate on behalf of birds. You don’t need to scale a peak like Ronan Donovan or explore a jungle like Tristan Spinski in pursuit of species few else have seen to make an impression (though we have to admit, that’s pretty cool!).
In this, our photo contest’s 10th year, we’ve added one more honor—the Fisher Prize. In the spirit of Audubon’s former creative director, Kevin Fisher, this award recognizes a creative approach to photographing birds, one that blends originality with technical expertise. Ly Dang’s close-up of a Black-browed Albatross eye made us pause and consider the bird’s perspective. As the best bird photography should.
This story originally ran in the Summer 2019 issue as “Context Matters.” To receive our print magazine, become a member by making a donation today.