Eight truly magnificent images from the 2021 Audubon Photography Awards

The Audubon Society's 2021 Audubon Photography Awards generated a huge number of utterly magnificent pictures of birds.

Almost 9,000 entries were received for the latest edition of the competition, whose judges included Sabine Meyer, photography director for the National Audubon Society. The restrictions on life in a pandemic meant one big change to the normal pattern of entries received: normally, the submitted images are sent in from expeditions across the globe. This time around, the vast majority of pictures were taken almost on the doorstep of each photographer — and the quality of the images serves as a reminder that sometimes Nature’s most beautiful sights can be right beneath our noses.

The grand prize winner wasn’t a professional, but amateur photographer Carolina Fraser, whose image of a Greater Roadrunner (taken at Los Novios Ranch in Cotulla, Texas) was awarded the top accolade. You can see it at the top of this page.

‘One of my favourite places to take photographs is among the oil pumps and open space at Los Novios Ranch in South Texas, where wildlife weaves through cacti and birds perch on fence posts,’ says Carolina.

‘On a blazing hot summer day just before sunset, I found myself lying facedown at an uncomfortable angle, my elbows digging into a gravel path as I photographed this roadrunner. I manually adjusted the white balance until I captured the bird bathed in golden sunlight as it took a dust bath.’

We’ve picked out a few more of our favourites from among the winners and highly commended images — but we’d heartily recommend spending a few minutes enjoying all of the images at the Audubon website and reading the stories behind the shots themselves.,

Recommended videos for you

Sandhill Crane, Johns Lake, Winter Garden, Florida. ©Robin Ulery/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Amateur Award Winner. ‘For three years I’ve watched a pair of Sandhill Cranes that nest near my house, observing and photographing them from my kayak,’ Robin says. ‘On a blustery day this spring, I took my camera and paddled out to check on them. Two colts had finally hatched. The wind, though, made for a challenging photo shoot. There was no solid land to anchor to, and I bounced up and down, sometimes missing the birds completely. So I increased my shutter speed and ISO to compensate. Capturing this scene under those conditions felt like a once-in-a-lifetime moment.’


Northern cardinal, Rural Muskegon County, Michigan ©Steve Jessmore/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Professional Award Winner. ‘On a bitterly cold winter day I went searching for eagles and Snowy Owls in rural Michigan,’ says Steve. ‘Cruising side roads, I noticed a Rough-legged Hawk perched atop a pine tree, but all I captured was its tail as it flew away. It was then that I spotted a male Northern Cardinal flying from plant to plant, feeding on the seeds, his red feathers reflected in the bright white snow flecked with ice crystals. I took the first shot when he took flight. By the second frame, the striking songbird was gone.’



Red-winged Blackbird and lily pad, Blue Sea, Quebec, Canada. ©Shirley Donald/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Plants For Birds Award Winner


Anna’s Hummingbird and cattail in Quilcene, Washington, USA. ©Karen Boyer Guyton/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Plants For Birds Honorable Mention


Peregrine Falcon, La Jolla Cove, California. ©Tom Ingram/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Amateur Honorable Mention



Anna’s hummingbird, Claremont Canyon Regional Preserve, Berkeley, California. ©Patrick Coughlin/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Fisher Prize


Canada geese, Burnaby Lake, Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada. ©Josiah Launstein/Audubon Photography Awards/2021 Youth Honorable Mention

10 breathtaking photographs from the 2019 Audubon Photography Awards

Winning photos and honorable mentions were selected from 2,253 entrants from all over the United States, Washington D.C. and 10