“White-tailed Kite” by Jack Zhi. Grand Prize Winner. Location: Costa Mesa, California, USA “A large, mostly white White-tailed Kite hovers in mid-air with wings and tail feathers spread wide and directly faces the camera with its underside exposed. It clutches a vole in its yellow talons. Another raptor flies above the forward-facing kite, its profile visible in front of a cloudless blue sky.”
Now in its 13th year, the Audubon Photography Awards are a celebration of bird photography. Arranged by the National Audubon Society, an organization whose mission is to protect birds and their environment, the contest had 2,500 entries from across the United States and Canada. This year's grand prize went to Jack Zhi for his image of two raptors in flight.
The photo, taken in California, shows a white-tailed kite hovering in mid-air. With its wings spread wide, Zhi is able to capture its spectacular anatomy in rich detail. For his efforts, Zhi took home a $5,000 prize. His work, along with the rest of the winners and honorable mentions, will also be featured in the summer 2022 edition of Audubon magazine and will be part of a traveling exhibition across 19 states.
Other standout images include Steve Jessmore's artistic image of Northern Shovelers. In his photo, a literal sea of ducks creates a mesmerizing composition. In the center, one male duck rises up to fully expose his emerald-green head and the dazzling blue feathers on his wings. Given the strong artistry of the photograph, it's no surprise that it won the Fisher Award, which is awarded to the image with the highest artistic merit and originality.
All of the images were judged by an expert panel that included conservation and bird photographers, as well as members of the National Audubon Society staff. The entries were judged on technique, originality, and artistry and all photographers were asked to follow Audubon's Guide to Ethical Bird Photography and Videography. Check out all the winners and honorable mentions below.
The 2022 Audubon Photography Awards are a look at North America's best bird photography.
“Northern Shoveler” by Steve Jessmore. Fisher Prize Winner. Location: Muskegon County Wastewater Management System, Muskegon County, Michigan, USA. “The frame is full of emerald-green heads and brown and white feathers—a sea of Northern Shovelers. The image centers around one male that rises above the rest with its wings outstretched, exposing the blue on the upper part of its wing.”
“Western Grebe” by Peter Shen. Amateur Winner. Location: Calero Reservoir, San Jose, California, USA. “A Western Grebe’s red eye stares into the camera, its body facing forward on nearly still water. Two chicks ride on its back, with their head cocked around the adult grebe’s neck to either side. Each holds either end of a silver fish in its beak.”
“Nashville Warbler and scarlet bee balm” by Shirley Donald. Plants For Birds Winner. Location: Blue Sea, Quebec, Canada. “A little Nashville Warbler, yellow with a gray head, clings to the stalk of a scarlet bee balm plant. Its profile faces a pink seedhead where a few bright red flower segments remain and stand out against a green background. In the bird’s beak is a tiny snail.”
“Greater Sage-Grouse” by Alan Krakauer. Female Bird Prize Winner. Location: Fremont County, Wyoming, USA. “A female Greater Sage-Grouse stands in profile surrounded by sagebrush. Spent seedheads stretch slightly higher than the bird. White snow covers the ground to the bird's belly and clings to the surrounding plants. The bird has a warm brown eye, a short but stout black beak, and finely patterned gray, white, brown, and black feathers. The bird is front-lit by bright morning sun coming from the right of the frame.”
“White-tailed Ptarmigan” by Liron Gertsman. Professional Winner. Location: Jasper National Park, Alberta, Canada. “A White-tailed Ptarmigan sits atop a rock overlooking mountains and a valley. The bird’s back faces the camera, and its head is turned to the side, showing the viewer its profile. The bird’s brown and white feathers look similar to the pattern of the green lichen covering the rock.”
“Black-bellied Whistling-Duck” by Jayden Preussner. Youth Winner. Location: Farm 13/Stick Marsh, Indian River County, Florida, USA. “A Black-bellied Whistling-Duck with a long brown body and pink legs perches on the edge of a gaping hole in the trunk of a palm tree. Its head, which also sports a bright pink bill, peers into the hollow of the trunk that is yellow with early morning light. Behind the tree is dense greenery.”
“Hawai‘i ‘Amakihi and ‘iliahi” by Warren Johnson. Plants For Birds Honorable Mention. Location: Haleakalā National Park, Maui, Hawai‘i, USA. “A Hawai‘i ‘Amakihi drinks nectar upside down from the pink, clustered flowers of the sandalwood tree. Below the blooms, a black and orange bee approaches, its beating wings blurred. The bird’s small green body is in soft sunlight as its slightly curved black beak disappears into a flower.”
“Greater Prairie-Chicken” by Amiel Hopkins. Youth Honorable Mention. Location: Fort Pierre National Grassland, Fort Pierre, South Dakota, USA. “The head of a Greater-Prairie Chicken in profile is in sharp focus, the grassland background blurred behind it. The bird’s mouth is opened slightly, and the orange air sacs on its neck are deflated and have a bumpy texture. The horn-like feathers on its head are erect, and above the bird’s alert eyes protrude textured golden eyebrows. Its body is covered in brown and white-striped feathers.”
“Common Raven” by Ankur Khurana. Amateur Honorable Mention. Location: Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada. “Two black Common Ravens stand on white snow. Standing slightly to the side, the bird on the left appears to groom the second, its beak on the second bird’s head. The bird on the right stands sideways in a slightly crouched position, its glossy feathers fluffed out.”
“Sharp-tailed Grouse” by Liron Gertsman. Professional Honorable Mention. Thompson-Nicola, British Columbia, Canada. “With their wings open, two male Sharp-tailed Grouse engage in a tussle, suspended in the air just above and in front of beige grasses. The bird on the left looks up at the bird on the right, appearing to snap at it. The bird on the right looks down on its aggressor, its feet splayed in front of it.”