Gorgeous Birds Strut and Soar in Winning Audubon Images

There's a special category this year for often-overlooked female birds.

greater roadrunner

Carolina Fraser / Audubon Photography Awards 2021

There's a sandhill crane baby lying on top of its mother. There are beautiful hummingbirds fluttering as they feed. And there's the glorious roadrunner above, pausing after a recent roll in the dirt.

These are the winning avian images in the 2021 Audubon Photography Awards from the National Audubon Society. Now in its twelfth year, the competition had 2,416 entries from all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and 10 Canadian provinces and territories this year.

“One of the biggest takeaways from this year’s is that the winning photos and honorable mentions were taken close to home," Sabine Meyer, photography director at the National Audubon Society, tells Treehugger.

"With the spike in interest in birdwatching in the past 1.5 years, we saw people seeking connections with birds in the natural world around them. We can only infer that the pandemic pushed bird photographers to not only look for beauty within driving distance but also challenge themselves to see more creatively in their own ‘backyards.'"

The grand prize winner was the greater roadrunner above shot by Carolina Fraser at Los Novios Ranch in Cotulla, Texas. She describes the bird and her image:

"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."

For the first time this year, the competition awarded a Female Bird Prize to draw attention to female birds. Less flashy than their male counterparts, female birds are often overlooked in photography and conservation, according to Audubon.

Winning photos will be featured in the Summer 2021 issue of Audubon magazine and showcased in a virtual awards exhibit.

Here are this year's winners and honorable mentions.

Amateur Award Winner

sandhill crane

Robin Ulery / Audubon Photography Awards 2021

Robin Ulery photographed this sandhill crane with her offspring in Johns Lake, Winter Garden, Florida.

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

Amateur Honorable Mention

peregrine falcon

Tom Ingram / Audubon Photography Awards 2021

Tom Ingram snapped this photo of a peregrine falcon in La Jolla Cove, California.

"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."

Plants For Birds Award Winner

red-winged blackbird and lily pad

Shirley Donald / Audubon Photography Awards 2021

Shirley Donald photographed a red-winged blackbird and lily pad in Blue Sea, Quebec, Canada.

"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."

Plants For Birds Honorable Mention

anna's hummingbird and cattail

Karen Boyer Guyton / Audubon Photography Awards 2021

Karen Boyer Guyton captured this Anna’s hummingbird hovering around a cattail in Quilcene, Washington.

"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."

Professional Award Winner

Northern cardinal

Steve Jessmore / Audubon Photography Awards 2021

Steve Jessmore was the Professional Award Winner for this image of a Northern cardinal photographed in rural Muskegon County, Michigan.

"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."

Professional Honorable Mention

red-tailed hawk

Steve Jessmore / Audubon Photography Awards 2021

Jessmore also took this photo of a red-tailed hawk in Kensington Metropark, Milford Township, Michigan.

"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."

Youth Award Winner

purple sandpiper

Arav Karighattam / Audubon Photography Awards 2021

Arav Karighattam captured this image of a purple sandpiper in Rockport, Massachusetts.

"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."

Youth Honorable Mention

Canada goose

Josiah Launstein / Audubon Photography Awards 2021

Josiah Launstein photographed Canada geese flying around Burnaby Lake, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada.

"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."

Fisher Prize

Anna's hummingbird

Patrick Coughlin / Audubon Photography Awards 2021

The Fisher Prize was named after Audubon's longtime creative director Kevin Fisher. It recognizes the most creative approach to photographing birds. Patrick Coughlin earned the award for this shot of an Anna's hummingbird taken in Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve, Berkeley, California.

"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."

Female Bird Prize

Northern harrier

Elizabeth Yicheng Shen / Audubon Photography Awards 2021

Elizabeth Yicheng Shen earned the first Female Bird Prize for her photograph of a Northern harrier shot in Coyote Hills Regional Park in Fremont, California.

"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 facing down."