This year nearly 1,800 photographers from across the United States and Canada submitted more than 6,000 images to the 11th annual Audubon Photography Awards. Our expert judging panel had the difficult task of choosing just six winners and four honorable mentions from the pool, but with so many awe-inspiring submissions, we always enjoy picking some favorites that didn't make the final cut. 

As usual, we've selected 100 additional photographs, shown here in no particular order. During this year of collective tragedy and canceled plans, we are especially grateful to share a gallery that displays even a small slice of global birdlife in all of its stunning and joyous variety, from acrobatic Ospreys to hungry hummingbirds to busy woodpeckers. 

We hope these shots inspire you to appreciate and perhaps try to capture the beauty of birds yourself. Our photography section has everything you need to get started, including tips and how-to’sgear recommendations, and Audubon's ethical guidelines for wildlife photography. With skill, patience, and maybe a little luck, you could find your shot at taking top honors in our 2021 awards.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Andrew Lee

Species:  Burrowing Owl

Location: Ontario, CA

Camera: Nikon D810 with Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II  lens and Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III; 1/640 second at f/5.6; ISO 2000

Behind the Shot: For days I tried to capture a portrait of the eight youngsters and parents of this large owl family. They never gathered all together, but one beautiful morning I was happy to see for the first time the mother with her eight owlets. I took a few images of them looking in all directions. Then, suddenly, they all turned and looked toward me, and I quickly snapped an image of the precious moment. 

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Cameryn Brock

Species:  Cape Sugarbird

Location: Blue Hill Nature Reserve, Western Cape, South Africa

Camera: Nikon D600 with Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/4E PF ED VR lens and Platinum 77mm UV filter; 1/800 second at f/4.5; ISO 500

Behind the Shot: While working at a field station in the fynbos region of South Africa, I spent the day hiking around. On my last day I found a nice rock to sit on among the blooming proteas and ate my peanut butter and jelly sandwich with the sugarbirds chasing each other around me. With the lovely blooming flowers and active birds, I extended my lunch break to soak up the last of my time in the fynbos and take a few final photos.

Category: Professional

Photographer: Peter Brannon

Species: Least Bittern

Location: Lakeland, FL

Camera: Nikon D500 with Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4D IF-ED lens; 1/1600 second at f/5.6; ISO 1400

Behind the Shot: At a Florida lake, I found this Least Bittern hunting in the aquatic vegetation close to shore. I got on my belly at the water’s edge and maneuvered my lens to get a clear shot of the bird through the lush greenery. I watched as it spotted a fish in the water and made this long extension to try and grab it, almost at a 90-degree angle from the plant’s stem. My favorite part of photographing birds is witnessing these extraordinary moments that fill me with surprise and wonder. 

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Matt Filosa

Species: Piping Plover

Location: Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Ipswich, MA

Camera: Canon 7D Mark II with Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II lens and Canon Extender EF 1.4x III; 1/1250 second at f/7.1; ISO 1000

Behind the Shot: A brood of Piping Plovers came very close to where I lay in the sand. I wanted to capture the classic scene of the full brood huddling under their parents, but I was too close for that. Instead, I tilted the lens downward and noticed the contrast of all those little orange legs against a black background (I think a patch of seaweed). The picture reminds me of a crowded bar.

Note: These endangered birds were photographed with a very long lens and teleconverter. Please give these birds the space they need to safely feed and rest.

Category: Youth

Photographer: Josiah Launstein

Species: American Robin

Location: Pincher Creek, Alberta, Canada

Camera: Nikon D7100 with Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens; 1/320 second at f/7.1; ISO 640

Behind the Shot: I was about to sit down for dinner when I glanced out the front window and noticed this young robin tucked into the vines on our deck. It alternated between grooming itself and calling out for a meal. I quickly grabbed my camera gear and snuck out the door on the opposite side of the house. I wanted to backlight the robin, so I cautiously approached from the east. Once I was in position, I leaned up against the house for extra stability and squeezed off this shot. Before too long, the robin’s mom came back and dropped an insect into the youngster’s beak!

 

Category: Youth

Photographer: Anastasia Stefanou

Species: Sanderling

Location: Jones Beach State Park, NY

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon EF 400 mm f/5.6 lens; 1/80 second at f/8; ISO 800

Behind the Shot: I took a two-hour drive on a frigid November afternoon in search of Snowy Owls. On a sunset walk to the end of the beach, a flock of Sanderlings descended in front of me. I was eager to capture the birds in their ebb-and-flow dance with the waves. I crouched low to frame the birds escaping the crashing wave. Although we didn’t see any owls, it was well worth the trip.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Lisa Sproat

Species: Whooper Swans

Location: Akan National Park, Teshikaga, Hokkaido, Japan

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM lens; 1/1250 second at f/2.8; ISO 125

Behind the Shot: Beautiful, noisy Whooper Swans overwinter in Hokkaido, taking advantage of the (relatively) warm waters of this caldera lake. Early in the day, the water was calm, and the swans drifted through the mist. The afternoon brought storm clouds and a relentless, cold wind. This pair is trumpeting and displaying with great energy after they were victorious in a scuffle that sent another swan couple packing.

Category: Youth

Photographer: Joseph Salmieri Jr.

Species: Tree Swallow

Location: Cape May County, NJ

Camera: Canon EOS 80D with Canon EF 75-300mm f/4-5.6 III lens; 1/5000 second at f/4; ISO 1000

Behind the Shot: Tree swallows were everywhere. When the whole flock was in the sky, all I could hear was their twittering and wing beats. It was an epic sight to witness. The biggest challenge was capturing the frenzy in the air without filling the frame with too much activity, nor leaving out too much. This is only a small portion of the entire flock.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Shay Saldana

Species: Florida Scrub-Jay

Location: Helen and Allan Cruickshank Sanctuary, Rockledge, FL

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens; 1/160 sec at f/5; ISO 100

Behind the Shot: I visited this sanctuary a week after a prescribed burn, conducted to maintain the natural scrub habitat. It had just rained, and I soon found a family of Florida Scrub-Jays hopping around a burned brush. I kneeled in the mud to get a low shot and nearly fell over. Then one hopped out of the brush and began to bathe in the water in front of me, stopping once just to look at me. I took this photo while lying on the ground, soaking wet, happy to be with these curious birds.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Julian Aaron Jacobs

Species: Red-tailed Hawk

Location: George Washington University, Washington, D.C.

Camera: Nikon D810 with Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM lens; 1/1000 second at f/6.3; ISO 500

Behind the Shot: I was unprepared when I first ran into this hawk. I was on my way back from class and didn’t have my camera. I ran to my fraternity house, grabbed my gear, and sprinted back, but the bird had vanished. Every day I searched for the hawk on my commute to class. I even recruited my fraternity brothers to report any signs of large birds. It was a long shot, but a steady stream of sightings came in. Finally, I had my camera when the hawk flew in once again. Heart racing, I brought the viewfinder to my eye and got this shot of its takeoff.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Peter Hogan

Species: Blue-gray Tanager

Location: Manu Biosphere Reserve, Peru

Camera: Sony Alpha a6400 with Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 GM OSS lens; 1/125 second at f/7.1; ISO 100

Behind the Shot: On a trip to a remote lodge in the rainforest of Peru, after hiking around during the day, we would sit on the veranda in the late afternoon. Sipping whiskey, I would gaze out at the local birds, including a number of tanagers. I didn’t bring a tripod or a monopod on the trip, so a railing served as a handy camera platform.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Breanna Wilson

Species: Spotted Sandpiper

Location: Squamish, British Columbia, Canada

Camera: Nikon D3200 with Sigma 150-500 mm F/5-6.3 APO DG OS HSM lens; 1/2500 second at f/6; ISO 400

Behind the Shot: A pair of sandpipers built a nest between a set of old train tracks that runs through a local estuary. Once news got out, many local birders let others know to be cautious around the area. When the babies hatched, they were so tiny they couldn’t get over the tracks to reach the water. Someone made a ramp out of wood to help, and the chicks were off soon after. It warmed my heart to see how many people came together to help this little family.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Kali Blevins

Species: Cliff Swallow

Location: Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge, Corinne, UT

Camera: Olympus OMD E-M5 Mark I with Olympus M.Zuiko DIGITAL ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO lens; 1/160 second at f/4.5; ISO 200

Behind the Shot: Cliff Swallow nests cover every inch of available overhang at this refuge. The birds construct their nests from mud, carried beakful by beakful. I was marveling at this impressive infrastructure when this bird peeked out of its nest. The moment made braving the swarms of mosquitoes totally worth it.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Howard Arndt

Species: Ruby-throated Hummingbird

Location: Amherst, NH

Camera: Canon EOS 1DX Mark II with Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM lens and Canon Extender 2x EF III; 1/640 second at f/18; ISO 5000

Behind the Shot: I first saw this bird sitting on the dead branch of an oak tree outside my front door. That day I spent eight hours with him, taking thousands of photos. I was taught to stay with an interesting subject, and this one fascinated me; over two months I observed him fighting, facing off with a spider, bathing in the rain, grooming, and sleeping. In this shot, he’s doing his stretching exercises at his favorite perch. Using my house as a blind, I took the photo from an open window. After much experimentation, I pre-focused on the branch and used a cable release to activate the shutter.

 Category: Amateur

Photographer: Scott Suriano

Species: Indigo Bunting

Location: Mckee Beshers Wildlife Management Area, Montgomery County, MD

Camera: Canon EOS 1DX Mark II with Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens and Canon Extender EF 1.4x III; 1/1250 second at f/5.6; ISO 400

Behind the Shot: I arrived at this sunflower field at sunrise to find several species of songbirds flying around and feasting on seeds. Among them were several brightly-colored Indigo Buntings, feverishly competing with American Goldfinches for real estate among the large yellow sunflowers. I saw this particular bunting take up residence on a weary sunflower head and triumphantly belt out his song across the fields. To capture the scene, I positioned myself to include the colorful foreground and situated the bird against the dark background so it would stand out. As I took the photos, the bird kept singing, its melody ringing across the field.

Category: Youth

Photographer: Izzy Edwards

Species: Great Gray Owl

Location: Mountain View County, Alberta, Canada

Camera: Canon 7D Mark II with Sigma 150-600mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG OS HSM lens; 1/1000 second at f/7.1; ISO 800

Behind the Shot: On a cold morning in Alberta, my best friend and I got up early to search for the elusive Great Gray Owl. We went up and down farm roads before coming across this magnificent individual perched on a post. It soon retreated into the snow-covered forest, and I assumed we wouldn’t be seeing it again. To my surprise, the owl re-emerged and landed on a small conifer. That’s when a tiny feather floated to the ground. I really love this photo because it looks as if the owl is staring at its feather drifting through the frigid morning air.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Joshua Pelta-Heller

Species: Common Murre, Razorbill

Location: Machias Seal Island, Grand Manan, New Brunswick

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM lens; 1/4000 second at f/5.6; ISO 640

Behind the Shot: During an early summer trip to photograph seabirds of Machias Seal Island, this group of Razorbills standing around one Common Murre caught my eye. The scene reminded me of a security detail or one of those clichéd “be original” posters. I wanted to capture the symmetry of the murre flanked on either side by four Razorbills, but I knew I would only have a few seconds before the birds would shift positions. This frame ended up being my favorite, with almost all of the Razorbills on each side looking in their respective directions.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Shirley Donald

Species: Red-throated Loon

Location: Nome, AK

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM lens and Canon Extender EF 1.4x III ; 1/2000 second at f/6.3; ISO 640

Behind the Shot: Early one morning on a trip to Alaska, I was delighted when our birding guide spotted a pair of these graceful Red-throated Loons that had taken up residence in one of the many ponds outside Nome. We crept to the water’s edge, lay down, and for more than an hour were treated to an amazing display of synchronized swimming, courtship behavior, and territorial antics. There are actually two loons in this photo. The second loon had just made a deliberately large, noisy dive as part of its territorial display.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Karl Schneider

Species: Ring-necked Pheasant

Location: Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, Willows, CA

Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F4.0 PRO lens; 1/200 second at f/4.5; ISO 1000

Behind the Shot: As a student, I often find it challenging to wake up for my early-morning classes. But when birds are involved, getting up is not a problem. This morning I was up before dawn to drive to a wildlife refuge in hopes of seeing a visiting Golden Eagle. I was soon sidetracked by this male Ring-necked Pheasant on full display for the mating season. I took this shot just after sunrise. I think the blurred-out wings give the photo a serene feeling, which is exactly how I felt watching these gorgeous birds.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Jill Bartelt

Species: Waved Albatross

Location: Española Island, Ecuador

Camera: Canon EOS Rebel T2i with Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens and B+W 67mm UV Haze MRC 010M filter and Canon ET-73B lens hood; 1/160 second at f/5.6; ISO125

Behind the Shot: On a trip to the Galápagos Islands, we stopped at Española Island, a nesting site for virtually all of the world’s Waved Albatrosses. I was instantly captivated by these charismatic seabirds with their liquid black eyes and tufted eyebrows. As I watched their courtship displays, I learned the patterns of bows and beak-clacking, and timed my shots to capture specific scenes. At one point, this bird seemed to look right at me!

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Joshua Pelta-Heller

Species: Feral Chicken

Location: Virgin Islands National Park, St. John, Virgin Islands

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon EF 800mm f/5.6L IS USM lens; 1/250 second at f/5.6; ISO 1250

Behind the Shot: On a visit to the national park in the Virgin Islands, we got stuck in an afternoon rainstorm almost as soon as we left the visitor center. We ended up spending two hours under a pavilion in the parking lot, where I spotted several feral chickens. I photographed the birds as they foraged, accompanied by their newborn chicks, like this one, which were looking for some cover from the storm, too.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Matt Filosa

Species: Piping Plover

Location: Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, Ipswich, MA

Camera: Canon 7D Mark II with Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II and Canon Extender EF 1.4x III; 1/3200 second at f/7.1; ISO 640

Behind the Shot: Piping Plovers can leave the nest and feed for themselves a few hours after they’re hatched, but they often need to huddle under their parents for warmth in the first few days of their lives. While watching this behavior, I noticed there’s sometimes a bit of chaos when the parent decides they’ve had enough. I wanted to try and capture that moment, and I especially like this shot—it reminds me of a busy parent dropping off the kids at school.

Note: These endangered birds were photographed with a very long lens and teleconverter. Please give these birds the space they need to safely feed and rest.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Scott Suriano

Species: Roseate Spoonbill

Location: J.N. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Sanibel Island, FL

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens and Canon Extender EF 1.4x III; 1/1250 second at f/5.6; ISO 1250

Behind the Shot: On a sunrise drive in a Florida park, I noticed this Roseate Spoonbill hunting in the brackish shallows on the edge of a large stand of mangroves. The light hitting the mangroves, reflected in the water and illuminating the bird, was nothing short of magical. I jumped out of my car, positioned myself as low as possible, and framed the shot in an effort to do this fantastic scene justice.

Category: Professional

Photographer: Nate Chappell

Species: Lesser Nighthawk

Location: Amado Wastewater Treatment Plant, Amado, AZ

Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens; 1/1600 second at f/5.6; ISO 1250

Behind the Shot: We were watching dozens of nighthawks hunting insects at the water treatment plant right before sundown. The birds fly very fast and erratically, like big swallows, so they’re difficult to focus on. I managed to get this bird in focus, with the full topside in view, just before we lost good light for the evening.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Trish Lyon

Species: Common Raven

Location: American Canyon Wetlands Open Space, American Canyon, CA

Camera: Nikon D850  with Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 300mm f/2.8G ED VR II lens and Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III; 1/2500 second at f/4; ISO 400

Behind the Shot: I was leaving a nearby wetland, where a local grassfire had filled the sky with smoke. The sun had nearly disappeared when I heard the unmistakable call of a raven. Looking around, I found the bird perched on top of a tree line, with the trees nearly bent in half from the wind. I lifted my lens and captured this image of the silhouette before the raven flew off into the evening.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Mike Madding

Species: Sora

Location: Cattail Marsh, Beaumont, TX

Camera: Canon 7D Mark II with Canon EF 100-400mm f/5.6L IS II USM lens; 1/640 second at f/5.6; ISO 1600

Behind the Shot: After several days visiting a marsh and trying to photograph this secretive little rail, I finally spotted one lurking around some undergrowth, just off the boardwalk. I decided to set up my camera and wait to see if it would make its way toward me. After 20 minutes the bird showed itself and rewarded me with some fine shots.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Peter Hartlove

Species: Great Gray Owl

Location: Yellowstone National Park, WY

Camera: Nikon D500 with Nikon AF-S NIKKOR  600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens; 1/4000 second at f/5.6; ISO 800

Behind the Shot: I had lost a very close friend recently and wanted to escape to the wilderness of Yellowstone. The night I arrived, a friend told me she’d seen a Great Gray Owl nearby. The next day I was up at the crack of dawn and very excited as I parked my truck close to the sighting area. I looked up through my windshield and was startled to see the owl staring back at me, no more than 30 feet away. I froze, not wanting to scare it. Eventually, I quietly opened the door. Luckily, the owl hardly seemed to notice. I spent the next few hours alone with this bird as it hunted voles. Witnessing its skill and determination touched me deeply.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: David Mollenhauer

Species: Superb Fairywren

Location: Port Campbell National Park, Victoria, Australia

Camera: Nikon D500 with Tamron SP 70-200mm F/2.8 Di VC G2 lens; 1/2500 second at f/2.8; ISO 250

Behind the Shot: While I was stopped at a national park visitor center, this fairywren burst onto the scene. I jumped at the opportunity to take his photo, but he kept dashing off—beneath a bush, behind a woman, under a bench—like he knew he was teasing me! I reset my camera to better capture the bird’s motion, and he finally gave me a chance to take his portrait in front of a handrail six feet away.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Jory Teltser

Species: Southern Cassowary

Location: Etty Bay, Queensland, Australia

Camera: Canon EOS 1DX Mark I with Canon EF 300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens; 1/2000 second at f/4; ISO 6400

Behind the Shot: I devoted my last day in Queensland to searching for the prehistoric-looking Southern Cassowary. After some time on the beach, an elderly female emerged from the understory and began walking in my direction. She was tall enough to be at eye level with me. Her pace slowed, and I felt her intense, reptilian gaze. I spent well over an hour with this bird, and she remained unfazed by me and several other beachgoers.

Category: Youth

Photographer: Ashrith Kandula

Species: Common Loon

Location: Yoho National Park, British Columbia, Canada

Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II with Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens and Canon EF 1.4x II Extender; 1/1000 second at f/10; ISO 1000

Behind the Shot: I saw a lone loon dive into the blue-green water of this beautiful glacial lake. When it finally resurfaced, I wasn’t in the right position to take a close shot, so I dashed to another part of the shore. I worried I was too late, but I was thrilled with the photo I ended up with, showing the geometric pattern of the loon as it dove again in the middle of the pristine water.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Carter Kremer

Species: Snowy Egret

Location: Pleasure Point, Santa Cruz, CA

Camera: Nikon Z6 with Nikon NIKKOR Z 24-70mm f/4 S lens; 1/500 second at f/4; ISO 3200

Behind the Shot: Christmas Eve brought an unusually low tide and beautiful sunset to Santa Cruz. Throngs of people gathered at the beach to watch the scene, and surfers caught their final waves of the day. Away from the crowds, I used the low tide to follow two Snowy Egrets catching all sorts of fish and invertebrates in the tidal pools. I held the camera just an inch or two off of the water and used a short lens that highlighted the sunset just as much as the egret.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Dan Ion

Species: Semipalmated Sandpiper

Location: DuPont Nature Center, Milford, DE

Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II with Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens; 1/1000 second at f/9; ISO 800

Behind the Shot: When I visited the Delaware Bay in May, thousands of Semipalmated Sandpipers and other migratory shorebirds were feasting on horseshoe crab eggs along the water’s edge. Every few minutes, large flocks would fly over the area and land back in the same general spot. Some of the birds would lag behind and have a hard time finding a good place to land, like this sandpiper in my photo. It was a very busy place.

Category: Youth

Photographer: Josiah Launstein

Species: Northern Pygmy-Owl

Location: Fraser Valley, British Columbia, Canada

Camera: Nikon D7100 with Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens; 1/320 second at f/8; ISO 800

Behind the Shot: I was photographing a female Northern Pygmy-Owl when a male landed on her and immediately mated. I only had to adjust my composition slightly to capture the unexpected action. The expressions of the owls in the photo reminds me of characters on a totem pole—the proud male on top of the female, and the (perhaps unimpressed) look on the female’s face. The male was actually very tender with his mate, and I got some sweet pictures of them together before he flew off. 

Category: Youth

Photographer: August Davidson-Onsgard

Species: Bald Eagle

Location: Ninilchik, Kenai Peninsula, AK

Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II with Canon EF 400mm f5.6L USM lens; 1/6400 second at f/5.6; ISO 1250

Behind the Shot: The beaches of Ninilchik are often covered in fish carcasses, discarded by the many fishing boats in the area. The abundance of food attracts large numbers of Bald Eagles and other birds to the beaches. I learned that it’s fairly easy to stumble upon an eagle while taking a quick walk down the beach. It was a bizarre experience for me, as someone from a place where eagles are not common.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Rick Derevan

Species: Acorn Woodpecker

Location: Atascadero, CA

Camera: Canon 1DX Mark II with Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II lens and Canon Extender EF 1.4x; 1/2000 second at f/5.6; ISO 1000

Behind the Shot: I was enjoying birdwatching in my backyard when I heard—then spotted—these Acorn Woodpeckers excavating this nest cavity, sometimes joined by a third bird. I set up my camera and spent two hours taking many, many photos. This image is one of my favorites because it shows how these birds cooperate and illustrates the importance of leaving old trees standing. Here, the weakened branch made it easier for the group to excavate the nest hole.

Category: Plants for Birds

Photographer: Bret Nainoa Mossman

Species: ʻIʻiwi (with Hāhāʻaiakamanu)

Location: Kokeʻe State Park, Waimea, Kauaʻi, HI

Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II with Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens; 1/200 second at f/5.6; ISO 320

Behind the Shot: It was an unusually sunny day in one of the wettest places in the world, on Kauaʻi. It also happened to be perfect timing for the blooming of a rare endemic flower called Hāhāʻaiakamanu. Another Hawaiian photographer and I spent nearly eight hours hidden near the flowering plants, watching ʻIʻiwi and another honeycreeper, Kauaʻi ʻAmakihi, feed. Capturing the relationship between this bird and plant was something truly magical—the two evolved together, shaping each other, the place, and the people of Hawaiʻi.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Mike Ince

Species: California Condor

Location: Pinnacles National Park, CA

Camera: Nikon D750 with Sigma 150-600 mm 5-6.3 Contemporary DG HSM OS lens; 1/400 second at f/6.3; ISO 2500

Behind the Shot: A good friend and I decided to venture into Pinnacles National Park in hopes of seeing a California Condor. After an hour of hiking on a cold rainy day, we approached the clifftops, completely exposed to the frigid, wet wind. We were questioning our decision to go out in the unpleasant conditions, but we pressed on. At the hardest point of our hike, there it was! A beautiful California Condor, hunkered down in the storm. All of a sudden, the weather didn’t matter.

Category: Youth

Photographer: Brian Knight

Species: Northern Mockingbird

Location: Friendswood, TX

Camera: Nikon D500 with Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens; 1/500 second at f/5.6; ISO 100

Behind the Shot: I noticed this Northern Mockingbird swooping down onto our lawn to forage for bugs in the freshly cut grass. I grabbed my telephoto lens and fired off a short burst of photos while it took a break on a nearby fence before returning to its search. This image stood out to me because of how the symmetrical fence framed the bird and highlighted its defiant pose.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Jack Zhi

Species: American Avocet

Location: San Joaquin Wildlife Sanctuary, Irvine, CA

Camera: Nikon D500 with Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens; 1/800 second at f/5.6; ISO 500

Behind the Shot: I took this shot at a wildlife sanctuary near my home, a place I visit after work. Three avocet chicks hatched a few days before, but two had already been lost to predators. This last one was staying close to its parent. While avocet babies can eat on their own from the time they’re born, the chicks stick by their parents when danger approaches, and mom or dad will take to the air to chase off an intruder. I love witnessing these moments in wildlife areas—they not only provide a sanctuary for animals, but also give people a respite to observe wild creatures in their natural habitat.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Russel Smith

Species: Red-breasted Sapsucker

Location: Portland, OR

Camera: Nikon D850 with Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens and Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III; 1/500 second at f/10; ISO 500

Behind the Shot: This Red-breasted Sapsucker is an occasional visitor to our backyard. On a cold winter day, it was fully absorbed in its work on an old pine tree. It paused briefly, facing toward the low midday sun, and I snapped a photo that captured its dignified bearing, warm colors, and beautiful feather texture against the cool shadows. After a moment, it returned to feeding from the fresh sap wells it had drilled.

Category: Professional

Photographer: Shane Kalyn

Species: Wood Duck

Location: Ladner, British Columbia, Canada

Camera: Nikon D500 with Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 DC HSM OS lens; 1/4000 second at f/2.8; ISO 500

Behind the Shot: I love wide-angle wildlife photography and have been experimenting with it lately, although it requires getting close to your subjects and makes it difficult to photograph birds. Lucky for me, there is a location near my home where Wood Ducks are quite tolerant of people. That said, this photo took a lot of patience as I had to wait, very still, for this beautiful male Wood Duck to approach me. As he got near, he gave me a look that seemed to highlight his character.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: David E. Johnson Jr

Species: Crimson-rumped Toucanet and Buff-tailed Coronet

Location: Pichincha, Ecuador

Camera: Nikon D500 with Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR lens; 1/200 second at f/8; ISO 800

Behind the Shot: After spending most of the day taking photos of a field full of hummingbirds, something totally unexpected occurred. A large bird cut across the scene in a blur. A moment later, I was shocked to see the newcomer, a toucanet, with a Buff-tailed Coronet hummingbird in its mouth. I raised my camera to capture the strange image. The birds were eerily still. I noticed the hummingbird’s wing was broken, but his eyes were still open. Then, as quick as the toucanet arrived, it took off with its catch.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Joshua Galicki

Species: Least Bittern

Location: Dorchester County, MD

Camera: Canon EOS 1DX Mark II with Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM lens; 1/3200 second at f/4; ISO 800

Behind the Shot: Least Bitterns are secretive, elusive birds that spend most of their time hidden in the dense marsh. Early one morning I was lucky to catch this bird as it gave me a fleeting, curious glance through a narrow opening in the reeds. I had to move very quietly to set up a clear shot. In this case, a few inches made all the difference.

Category: Amateur

Photographer: Edward Episcopo

Species: Tree Swallow

Location: Rappahannock River, Fredericksburg, VA

Camera: Nikon D500 with Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 lens; 1/1600 second at f/6.3; ISO 1000

Behind the Shot: Walking along a river, I came across a group of Tree Swallows soaring over the water and catching insects. I noticed a male picking up goose feathers and carrying them to a small hole in a tree. I sat on the ground, just far enough not to interfere with his behavior. After half an hour, the female swallow peeked out of the hole and cocked her head, as if wondering what was taking so long. I really liked the light and the texture of the tree surface, so I took the shot.

Category: Professional

Photographer: Bill Campbell

Species: Orange-crowned Warbler

Location: Prince George, British Columbia, Canada

Camera: Nikon D500 with Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens; 1/640 second at f/5.6; ISO 1250

Behind the Shot: It had just rained. The sky was overcast, but there was enough light to give the blossoms on the new growth a bit of a glow. I saw this little warbler land on a branch, and I was taken with how its colors seemed made to match the surroundings. I watched the bird eat black ants off the tree buds, and when it shot a quick glance my way, I captured this shot.

Category: Professional

Photographer: Douglas DeFelice

Species: Mourning Dove

Location: Tarpon Springs, FL

Camera: Nikon D850 with Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 400mm f/2.8E FL ED VR lens; 1/800 second at f/2.8; ISO 100

Behind the Shot: I was in my house looking out the window, when I saw these Mourning Doves sitting on the rocks by my pool. I quickly grabbed a camera and rushed back to photograph the two as they appeared to kiss and hug each other. I had been watching this pair for months as they nested in my backyard. Seeing them interact made me appreciate how delicate and caring these animals can be. It really made me feel that love is everywhere.&n