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This wildlife photography captures the secret life of birds

Audubon Photography Awards
Carolina Frazer's photo of a Greater Roadrunner grabbed the top prize (Image credit: Carolina Frazer)

The 2021 Audubon Photography Awards has officially announced the winners and honorable mentions for its latest wildlife photography contest. Featuring eight prizes across five divisions, this was the first year that the competition awarded the Female Bird Prize and Video Prize. The Female Bird Prize was introduced to draw attention to female birds, which are oven under-appreciated in both bird photography and conservation.

Meanwhile, the Video Prize is designed to help illuminate the way birds interact with their environment. Having received 8,770 photographs and 261 videos, there was plenty of competition for the grand prize of $5,000. However, Carolina Frazer swooped into the top spot with her sun-drenched image of a Greater Roadrunner.

• Read more: Best lenses for bird photography (opens in new tab)

Captured with a Nikon D500 (opens in new tab) and a Nikon 500mm f/4 lens, Carolina shot her winning photo in Los Novios Ranch, Cotulla, Texas. As reported on Audubon.org (opens in new tab), "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."

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Yicheng Shen, the winner of the Female Bird Prize, captured a mid-flight image of a Northern Harrier with her Sony A9 (opens in new tab), Sony 400mm f/2.8 GM FE OSS (opens in new tab) lens and 2x teleconverter. She tells Audubon.org (opens in new tab), "I was waiting for Fernando the Chilean Flamingo to wake up from his afternoon nap. People have reported seeing the lone flamingo in the park since 2010 so I went out to photograph him.

This image by Elizabeth Yicheng Shen captures a Northern Harrier on the hunt. (Image credit: Elizabeth Yicheng Shen)
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"A commotion from the nearby water, where a Great Blue Heron stalked prey and a few gulls rested, attracted my attention. A Northern Harrier had come out of nowhere to hunt. I quickly adjusted my camera settings so I could get her owl-like face. This kind of unexpected encounter is why I always carry my camera when I venture into nature."

With most of the images showcased in this competition captured during the pandemic, Audubon.org (opens in new tab) notes that "one trend became clear after the judging was completed: In contrast to recent years, few of the winning images emerged from far-flung expeditions. Most were taken by photographers working close to home. This may be a reflection of the many ways that birds provided solace during the challenging and restrictive conditions brought on by the pandemic". 

The winning photos and videos will be featured in the Summer 2021 issue of Audubon magazine and the top photos and honorable mentions will also be showcased in a virtual Audubon Photography Awards exhibit (opens in new tab). Meanwhile, you can also see a selection of the images below.

(Image credit: Robin Ulery)
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(Image credit: Steve Jessmore)
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(Image credit: Patrick Coughlin)
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(Image credit: Karen Boyer Guyton)
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(Image credit: Tom Ingram)
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Louise Carey
Louise Carey

With over a decade of photographic experience, Louise arms Digital Camera World with a wealth of knowledge on photographic technique and know-how – something at which she is so adept that she's delivered workshops for the likes of ITV and Sue Ryder. Louise also brings years of experience as both a web and print journalist, having served as features editor for Practical Photography magazine and contributing photography tutorials and camera analysis to titles including Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab) and  Digital Photographer (opens in new tab). Louise currently shoots with the Fujifilm X-T200 and the Nikon D800, capturing self-portraits and still life images, and is DCW's ecommerce editor, meaning that she knows good camera, lens and laptop deals when she sees them.