2021 Audubon Photography Awards Winners Enchant with Birdlife Imagery

The leading North American bird photography competition broadens winners with the first year of prizes for female birds and bird videos.
Several of the top-placing photos, clockwise in a grid from top left: a Red-tailed Hawk claws for a chipmunk; a Red-winged Blackbird dips her bill into a lily pad flower; a Northern Cardinal in flight; a Greater Roadrunner with its back to the camera; a Purple Sandpiper resting; a Sandhill crane adult and chick.

NEW YORK – Today, the National Audubon Society named the winning photographs and videos of the 2021 Audubon Photography Awards, with eight prizes across five divisions. In the twelfth year, winning entries and honorable mentions emerged from 2,416 entrants from all 50 states, Washington D.C. and 10 Canadian provinces and territories.

For the first time, the competition awarded the Female Bird Prize and Video Prize. The Female Bird Prize was introduced to draw attention to female birds, which are often overlooked and underappreciated in both bird photography and conservation. The new Video category aims to illuminate unique and fascinating ways birds behave and interact with their environments. Previously featured prizes, such as the Plants for Birds Prize and Fisher Prize, were also awarded in this year’s contest.

Winning photos and videos will be featured in the Summer 2021 issue of Audubon magazine. Top photos and honorable mentions will also be showcased in a virtual Audubon Photography Awards exhibit. The 2021 Audubon Photography Awards team worked in collaboration with the photographers to ensure that the intent and essence of each photo was incorporated into vibrant alternative text in order to make the awards accessible to the largest audience possible.

As these photos and videos enchant people with the beauty of birds, two-thirds of North American birds are threatened by extinction from climate change according to Audubon’s 2019 climate science report, including species featured in the winning and forthcoming Top 100 collections. Learn more about how climate change will affect the birds in your backyard and communities by entering your zip code into Audubon‘s interactive Birds and Climate Visualizer.

At last, the winners of the 2021 Audubon Photography Awards:

Grand Prize

In the midst of an evening dust bath, a Greater Roadrunner stands proudly, backlit by the sun. Brilliant, golden light exposes white-tipped tail feathers that contrast with downy feathers fanning out from its sides. Dust from a recent roll in the dirt lingers in the air.

Greater Roadrunner. Photo: Carolina Fraser/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Grand Prize


Professional Award Winner

A red male Northern Cardinal seems to float above the snowy ground, the crest feathers on its head blown backward in the wind as it flies in profile in front of gray plant stalks. The bird’s three wing feathers touch the white carpet of snow, its shadow connecting below.

Northern Cardinal. Photo: Steve Jessmore/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Professional Award Winner


Amateur Award Winner

A newborn Sandhill Crane colt rests atop its mother, its body curled around her red-crowned head. The colt’s orange and white fluffy body contrasts the mother’s blue-gray feathers, their profiles against a blurry yellow background.

Sandhill Crane. Photo: Robin Ulery/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Amateur Award Winner


Youth Award Winner

On a wet, rocky shore, a Purple Sandpiper sits with its beak tucked under its brown and gray wing, the blurred blue ocean waves in the background.

Purple Sandpiper. Photo: Arav Karighattam/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Youth Award Winner


Plants for Birds Award Winner

Beak deep in a partially opened, yellow flower emerging from the water, a gray female Red-winged Blackbird stands balancing on a lily pad, her wings partially outstretched, revealing the touch of red on her shoulders. More yellow flowers color the background.

Red-winged Blackbird and lily pad. Photo: Shirley Donald/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Plants For Birds Award Winner


Video Award Winner

Hovering in a stiff wind, a Red-Tailed Hawk seems to be suspended in the air with wings outstretched as it cocks its head to the side to scan the ground for prey. The dark gray wing feathers turn upward as its yellow feet dangle below, the green trees in the background.

Red-tailed Hawk. Photo: Bill Bryant/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Video Award Winner


Female Bird Prize

A female Northern Harrier flies over a wetland, her broad wings raised over her head. Her long tail striped with white and brown spreads out like a fan, her round face looking down.

Northern Harrier. Photo: Elizabeth Yicheng Shen/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Female Bird Prize


Fisher Prize

More than a dozen purple blooms on a Pride of Madeira plant obscure all but a blurred wing and one eye of an Anna's Hummingbird. The hummingbird faces the viewer with its eye clearly visible between two flowers, appearing to be making eye contact with the photographer.

Anna’s Hummingbird. Photo: Patrick Coughlin/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Fisher Prize


Professional Honorable Mention

A Red-tailed Hawk holds an open-mouthed chipmunk in its yellow talons, the rodent’s head and front paws peeking out from a snowy perch. The raptor’s head bends low as it looks at its chipmunk prey, a piece of fur in its blue, pointed bill.

Red-tailed Hawk. Photo: Steve Jessmore/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Professional Honorable Mention


Amateur Honorable Mention

Atop a rocky cliff littered with feathers, a Peregrine Falcon stands with a red-crested Acorn Woodpecker in its bloodied talons. The tan and dark gray Falcon holds a feather in its beak as two other feathers, black at the top and white with blood stains at the bottom, float, crossing in midair.

Peregrine Falcon. Photo: Tom Ingram/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Amateur Honorable Mention


Youth Honorable Mention

On a still wetland with green grasses and brown reeds in the background, a Canada Goose flies up from the water, its wings outstretched and beak agape as another Canada Goose, wings bent at 90-degree angles, honks back. Several Green-winged Teal watch the scene from the water below.

Canada Goose. Photo: Josiah Launstein/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Youth Honorable Mention


Plants for Birds Honorable Mention

The brown, cylindrical top of a cattail stands upright as a green Anna’s Hummingbird half its size pulls away seed fibers, their fluff extending from her beak to the top of the plant. The sunlit cattail is illuminated around the edges

Anna’s Hummingbird and cattail. Photo: Karen Boyer Guyton/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Plants For Birds Honorable Mention


Video Honorable Mention

[No sound] Snow gently falls across a wintery grey landscape with a Great Gray Owl perched on a thin branch. The owl slowly turns its head, revealing piercing yellow eyes and a bloodstained beak. Snow has accumulated on the face as it surveys its surroundings. The owl slowly spreads its wings and silently flies away.

Great Gray Owl. Video: Brent Cizek/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Video Honorable Mention


2021 Contest Prizes

  • Grand Prize: $5,000 USD
  • Professional Prize:  $2,500 USD
  • Amateur Prize:  $2,500 USD
  • Plants for Birds Prize: $2,500 USD
  • Video Prize: $2,500 USD
  • Female Bird Prize: $1,000 USD
  • Fisher Prize: $1,000 USD 
  • Youth Prize: Six days at Audubon's Hog Island Audubon Camp during the 2022 season.

Meet the 2021 Contest Judges:

  • Mike Fernandez, video producer, National Audubon Society
  • Sean Graesser, biologist, conservation photographer, and founding member and creative director of Wild Bird Research Group
  • Sabine Meyer, photography director, National Audubon Society
  • Kathy Moran, deputy director of photography, National Geographic Partners
  • Allen Murabayashi, co-founder, PhotoShelter
  • John Rowden, senior director of bird-friendly communities, National Audubon Society
  • Tara Tanaka, bird photographer, videographer, and Swarovski’s Digiscoper of the Year (2011 and 2012)
  • Founders of the Galbatross Project:
    • Brooke Bateman, senior scientist, National Audubon Society
    • Stephanie Beilke, conservation scientist, Audubon Great Lakes
    • Martha Harbison, senior network content editor, National Audubon Society
    • Purbita Saha, member, Bergen County Audubon Society, and former Audubon magazine editor 
    • Joanna Wu, avian biologist, National Audubon Society

Judging Criteria & Official Rules:

To learn more about Audubon’s Plants for Birds program and Native Plants Database, please visit: https://www.audubon.org/native-plants.


About Audubon

National Audubon Society protects birds and the places they need, today and tomorrow. Audubon works throughout the Americas using science, advocacy, education, and on-the-ground conservation. State programs, nature centers, chapters, and partners give Audubon an unparalleled wingspan that reaches millions of people each year to inform, inspire, and unite diverse communities in conservation action. A nonprofit conservation organization since 1905, Audubon believes in a world in which people and wildlife thrive. Learn more at www.audubon.org and on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram @audubonsociety.

Media Contact: Chandler Lennon, chandler.lennon@audubon.org, 804.832.0832