18 Jul 2019

Photo Essay: Audubon's 2019 photography awards

Audubon has announced the winners of its 2019 photography competition. Read more about these stunning photos and the birds in them below.

Winner of the amateur photograph category Maria Kamal. White-necked Jacobin in a flower.
By BirdLife International

The Audubon Society (BirdLife Partner in America) has announced the winners of its 2019 Photography Awards. Six winners and four honourable mentions were selected, with the grand prize going to Kathrin Swoboda, for her photo of a Red-winged Blackbird. The prize winners were chosen from 2,253 entrants living in the United States and Canada.

Two new prizes were introduced this year: the Plants for Birds Prize and the Fisher Prize. The Plants for Birds Prize featured birds and plants native to the area where the photo was taken. The Fisher Prize was awarded to the photograph depicting the most creative approach to bird photography across all divisions: Professional, Amateur, Youth and Plants for Birds. Below are the prize photographs.

Grand Prize Winner: Kathrin Swoboda

Category: Amateur

Species: Red-winged Blackbird

Location: Huntley Meadows Park, Alexandria, Virginia

Red-winged Blackbirds, Agelaius phoeniceus, are some of the most abundant and conspicuous birds in North America. Beginning in early spring, males perch above marshes, pond edges, damp fields, and roadside ditches, flaring their red shoulder patches and belting out arresting songs to announce their claims to breeding territories.


Amateur Winner: Mariam Kamal

Species: White-necked Jacobin

Location: Dave & Dave’s Nature Park, Sarapiqui, Costa Rica

Of the 350-plus species of hummingbirds, most have small geographic ranges. Bucking the trend is the White-necked Jacobin Florisuga mellivora which is common from southern Mexico to southern Brazil. It succeeds by being adaptable, occupying a wide variety of tropical forest and edge habitats.


Amateur Honorable Mention: Melissa Rowell

Species: Great Blue Heron

Location: Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Delray Beach, Florida

Great Blue Herons, Ardea herodias can lunge with fearsome speed to strike their aquatic prey. Adults will also employ rapid stabbing motions as one aspect of their complex courtship displays; they’re seemingly dangerous moves, but fitting to the intensity of mating season.



Professional Winner: Elizabeth Boehm

Species: Greater Sage-Grouse

Location: Pinedale, Wyoming

On a Greater Sage-Grouse Centrocerus urophasianus, dancing ground, or lek the stakes are high. Many males may display there, but most females that visit will mate with one of the few dominant males at the center of the lek. As a result, genes passed on to the next generation will tend to be those of the strongest males.


Professional Honorable Mention: Kevin Ebi

Species: Bald Eagle

Location: San Juan Island National Historical Park, Friday Harbor, Washington

Bald Eagles, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, eat pretty much anything they want to. Their penchant for dining on carrion may seem less than regal, but they are also powerful predators and pirates. They capture a wide variety of fish, mammals, and birds, and don’t hesitate to steal others’ prey.


Youth Winner: Sebastian Velasquez

Species: Horned Puffin

Location: Alaska SeaLife Center (accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums), Seward, Alaska

Unlike the Atlantic and Tufted Puffins, which dig tunnels in soil for their nests, the Horned Puffin, Fratercula corniculata, usually lays its single egg deep in a crevice among rocks. Such nest sites are harder to access for study, and the habits of this North Pacific species are not as well known as those of its relatives.

Youth Honorable Mention: Garrett Sheets

Species: Bobolink

Location: Dunn Ranch Prairie, Lincoln Township, Missouri

Most songbirds nesting in the grasslands of the United States and Canada are short-distance migrants at most. The Bobolink, Dolichonyx orzivorus,  is a striking exception, vacating North America entirely in fall, spending mid­winter south of the Equator in South America. Bobolinks molt before migrating, the male trading his snappy summer plumage for subtle buff-brown tones.


Fisher Prize Winner: Ly Dang

Species: Black-browed Albatross

Location: Saunders Island, Falkland Islands

Spending most of their lives at sea in southern oceans,  Black-browed Albatrosses, Thalassarche melanophris, are masters of the air, soaring and gliding effortlessly on incredibly long wings. On the Falkland Islands they share nesting colonies with penguins—the opposite of albatrosses in flying ability, but birds also supremely adapted to a life at sea.

Plants for Birds Winner:  Michael Schulte

Species: Hooded Oriole

Location: San Diego, California

Hooded Orioles, Icterus cucullatus, build hanging nests, weaving plant fibers for a lightweight but durable structure. Living in subtropical climates, they find the perfect building material in the long, strong fibers of palms. They often fasten their nests under the leaf of a California fan palm. "Palm-leaf Oriole" was an old alternative name for this bird.


Plants for Birds Honorable Mention:  Joseph Przybyla

Species: Purple Gallinule

Location: Circle B Bar Reserve, Lakeland, Florida

The Purple Gallinule, Porphyrio martinicus, seems to combine the best traits of its rail relatives. Like true rails, it slips through dense marshes; like the coots, it swims and dives expertly on open water. When food beckons, it uses its garish yellow feet to clamber higher, even into trees.