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The 2024 Audubon Photo Awards: The Top 100

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Each year of the Audubon Photography Awards is exciting, but this one is especially celebratory: 2024 marks the 125th anniversary of Audubon magazine—and the 15th installment of our annual photo competition. Around 2,300 entrants from across the United States and Canada submitted more than 8,500 photographs and videos of birds feeding, fighting, mating, and making their way in the world. After anonymous review, our expert judges selected just 14 fabulous winners and honorable mentions.

But as always, we couldn’t stop there. Here are 100 more of our favorite photos from this year’s submissions. Displayed in no particular order, these stunning images from professional, amateur, and youth photographers depict birds on nearly every continent, a dazzling tour of the avian world. Scroll through and enjoy, and learn more about the featured species, as well as the techniques and approaches of the photographers, in the “Behind the Shot” stories for each picture.

If this gallery inspires you to seek your own avian photo-ops, our photography section is a good place to get started. There you’ll find articles covering tips and how-to’s, Audubon’ethical guidelines for wildlife photography, and gear recommendations. Consider entering next year’s photo contest—we can’t wait to see your work!

1. American Avocet by Michelle Mackenzie

Category: AmateurLocation: Davis County, UtahCamera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon EF 400mm f/2.8L IS III USM lens; 1/2000 second at f/2.8; ISO 100Behind the Shot: One mid-September morning, a few companions and I donned waterproof waders and crept out to Great Salt Lake. We gingerly lowered ourselves onto the oozing, sticky mudflats and turned our collective gaze toward the horizon. The sun inched up, illuminating thousands of shorebirds supported by the lake. Slowly, the American Avocets who congregate here in fall became comfortable with our silent presence. The shorebirds gracefully swept back and forth as they gleaned aquatic invertebrates from the water. The rising sun sparkled on some disturbed mud, creating a bokeh pattern of blurred dots of light. As one bird moved closer, I quietly raised my camera and shot this photo, capturing the bokeh, water dripping from the bird’s bill, and the burgeoning sunlight through the tail feathers. 

2. Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Julia Willmann 

Category: ProfessionalLocation: Troy, MissouriCamera: Sony a7 III with a Sony FE 90mm F/2.8 Macro G OSS lens; 1/3200 second at f/2.8; ISO 200Behind the Shot: There is a certain time when the sun shines through the trees and hits the little spot of flowers in my yard, making it feel like a magical fairy tale. As I ran out to take pictures, I noticed two hummingbirds zipping in and out of the sun’s rays. I went up slowly and captured this picture of them flying in the beams of light, their beautiful rainbow wings glistening. It is now one of my favorite pictures because I feel like it truly captured that short moment of magic in nature. I watched them and took pictures until the sun went down behind another tree branch, shading the flowers. 

3. Burrowing Owl by Maria Khvan

Category: AmateurLocation: Lee County, FloridaCamera: Sony Alpha 7R III with a Sony FE 600mm F/4 GM OSS lens; 1/1000 second at f/4; ISO 1250Behind the Shot: I came to a community park before sunrise to photograph Burrowing Owls—I knew they’d be there because I had visited the night before to check. After I laid on the ground and waited for a few minutes, suddenly one owl emerged and started digging in the sand around its burrow. I slowly shifted myself to get the early sun behind the bird and capture the sand it was tossing in the air. This event lasted for less than a minute.

4. American Avocet by Nikunj Patel

Category: AmateurLocation: Great Salt Lake, UtahCamera: Nikon Z9 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR lens; 1/1250 second at f/9; ISO 500Behind the Shot: In the spring, I dedicated several days to capturing the migration of shorebirds around Great Salt Lake. One chilly morning as the sun rose, I donned my waders and positioned myself at the water’s edge where a serene assembly of avocets adorned the shoreline. With their slender frames and immaculate white feathers, they formed a captivating tableau against the shimmering water. Each avocet exuded grace, their delicate necks elegantly curved as they nestled their bills beneath their wings. The backdrop of snow-capped mountains added to the scene’s majesty, their peaks catching the first light of dawn. One avocet stood with its head held high against the backdrop of nature’s grandeur, a testament to the enduring allure of the natural world.

5. Red-crowned Crane by Michele McCormick

Category: AmateurLocation: Hokkaido, JapanCamera: Sony Alpha 1 with a Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens; 1/2000 second at f/7.1; ISO 200Behind the Shot: I was at the Tsurui-Ito Crane Sanctuary with high hopes of photographing cranes in the snow. Making wonderful images of these Red-crowned Cranes in the dead of winter meant standing outside for hours to catch an interesting moment. Alas, my California winter gear didn’t cut the mustard in temperatures below zero. On the first day, I had to retreat. Fortunately, I was able to rent gear and maintain my vigil in relative comfort the next day. These amazing birds gather in clusters, and while it was fascinating to watch them, making an image in which any individual bird or pair was isolated required constant attention and lightning reflexes.

6. Great Frigatebird by Liron Gertsman

Category: ProfessionalLocation: Galápagos, EcuadorCamera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L IS USM lens; 1/250 second at f/10; ISO 250 Behind the Shot: Photographing Great Frigatebirds was a highlight of my visit to Genovesa Island. One of their most impressive features is the large, inflatable throat sac sported by the males and used during their courtship displays. While observing them, I noticed that the intricacies of the blood vessels and feather structure on the gular pouch were particularly visible when the sac was backlit by the sun. Spotting a displaying bird, I positioned myself with the sun behind the bird, allowing the backlight to reveal hidden vascular details. 

7. Arctic Tern and Ivory Gull by Sue Dougherty

Category: ProfessionalLocation: Svalbard, NorwayCamera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L IS USM lens; 1/2500 second at f/7.1; ISO 320Behind the Shot: Exploring the Svalbard archipelago is like being in another world. The brilliant blue of the icebergs and the purple-gray of the skies are stunning on their own. Pair that with the fauna that is highly adapted to the Arctic, and it’s even more amazing. An Arctic Tern, nearing time to migrate, flew over a vigilant Ivory Gull perched on an iceberg, almost as a farewell for the season. This made an amazing juxtaposition of two birds: one that migrates 25,000 miles from the Arctic to Antarctica and back annually, and one that lives its entire life, with rare exception, on and above the Arctic circle. 

8. Louisiana Waterthrush by Alexander Eisengart

Category: YouthLocation: Loudonville, OhioCamera: Sony Alpha 6400 with a Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD lens; 1/320 second at f/6.7; ISO 1600Behind the Shot: Mohican State Park is known in Ohio as a breeding birds’ paradise. The Mohican River carves out the landscape, creating a gorge 1,000 feet wide and 300 feet deep. Massive hardwoods tower overhead and support a large numbers of species. And yet my favorite subject to photograph in these woods is a bird that appreciates the heart of it all: the river itself. Louisiana Waterthrush zip up and down streams, call loudly, and sing with no end. Sometimes, I wonder how such tiny birds can have so much breath. This particular bird foraged silently for bugs. I slowly, quietly, and carefully lowered myself onto a shale deposit, rested my camera down on the rock, and fired as many photos as I could. 

9. Yellow-headed Blackbird by Gavin Regan

Category: YouthLocation: McNeal, ArizonaCamera: Nikon D780 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm f/4G ED VR lens; 1/640 second at f/8; ISO 2000Behind the Shot: On his day off, George Andrejko, a generous Arizona nature and wildlife photographer, took me to the Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area, where tens of thousands of Sandhill Cranes come during migration. There was also an abundance of geese, sora, ducks, towhees, and—one of the most breathtaking of all—Yellow-headed Blackbirds. The blackbirds would flock by the hundreds and take off all together, making an otherworldly sound. I walked a ways down the path to get the flocks backlit against the desert sunset. The result was this image of the blackbirds coming in for a landing in the marsh, their wings aglow as if on fire. Never have I seen such staggering spectacles of the natural world as I saw that day.  

10. Least Tern by Martin Culpepper

Category: AmateurLocation: Ipswich, MassachusettsCamera: Nikon Z9 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR lens; 1/400 second at f/5.6; ISO 1250Behind the Shot: Over the summer, I was out photographing shorebirds at Sandy Point State Reservation with a few of my friends. We had our cameras trained on some terns and other species that were roosting on the beach in front of us. However, when I heard calls from directly behind me, I turned to see two Least Terns had just landed. I slowly repositioned myself in the soft sand to point my camera at the pair. They started mating, which is when I got this photo. Given the precarious situation that many shorebird species are facing due to habitat loss, it feels very special to be able to spend time with these animals and view their behaviors.

11. Anna’s Hummingbird by Soo Baus 

Category: AmateurLocation: Port Townsend, WashingtonCamera: Sony Alpha 1 with a Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens; 1/3200 second at f/6.3; ISO 1250Behind the Shot: In a friend’s backyard, I wanted to photograph the hummingbirds at a water fountain during golden hour, hoping to capture them with a high shutter speed that showed the birds drinking the spray. There were two Anna’s Hummingbirds and one Rufous Hummingbird visiting the fountain, and I finally captured many beautiful action photos. While photographing, I could only see the birds’ movements in and out of the water fountain, so I was surprised when I later saw this image of the hummingbird drinking a droplet.

12. Great Black-backed Gull by Eaton Ekarintaragun 

Category: YouthLocation: Chesapeake Beach, MarylandCamera: Sony NEX-7 with a Sony DT 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6 SAM lens; 1/640 second at f/5.6; ISO 200 Behind the Shot: Early fall is an exciting time. I often spend these unpredictable weeks by the shore, looking for migrants and enjoying the last bit of warm weather. At this particular location, many gulls and terns can be found roosting, preparing to leave for warmer waters. One evening, I headed out with my camera. I found a Great Black-backed Gull sitting calmly on the boardwalk, away from the more popular roosting spots closer to the water. The gull snoozed as I slowly lowered my perspective. After about an hour of trying different compositions, angles, and exposures, I captured an intimate moment highlighted by the setting sun. 

13. Barred Owl by Kelley Luikey

Category: ProfessionalLocation: Port Royal, South CarolinaCamera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon EF 300mm f/2.8: IS II USM lens; 1/640 second at f/2.8; ISO 6400Behind the Shot: I had been hearing and seeing a pair of Barred Owls in a swampy area near my home for a couple of weeks. I usually did not have my camera with me, and if I did, the owls were perched in spots that weren’t great for photos. Determined to photograph one of them, I went back and sat in the woods for a couple of afternoons. One would fly in just before sunset each evening and then fly off. On this night, the owl flew to a stunning live oak tree filled with Spanish moss, just a few feet from where I sat. I slowly walked farther back until the tree filled most of the frame. Shortly after I took this shot, the owl flew off.

14. European Bee-eater by Conrad Peloquin 

Category: AmateurLocation: Ljubljana, SloveniaCamera: Nikon Z9 with a Nikon NIKKOR Z 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 VR S lens; 1/2500 second at f/5.0; ISO 1100Behind the Shot: On a recent trip to Slovenia, my wife and I stayed at a winery for a few nights. Next to the winery was a vineyard, which turned out to be a fabulous backdrop not only for landscape images, but also for bee-eater activity. While we ate a lovely breakfast outdoors, I noticed the birds zipping around catching insects. They would bring a bee to a branch, toss it in the air, and smack it to get the stinger and venom out. Then they would either eat the insect or present it to their intended mate. This behavior became predictable enough that I was able to get this shot while my wife chose her wine for dinner. 

15. Osprey and Brown Pelican by Phil Seu

Category: AmateurLocation: Sebastian, FloridaCamera: Nikon Z9 with a Nikon NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S lens; 1/2500 second at f/4; ISO 4000Behind the Shot: I was at Sebastian Inlet State Park when I witnessed four Brown Pelicans converge on a fishing Osprey. The first pelican to reach the raptor partially engulfed it in its gular pouch and dunked the Osprey into the water. Fortunately for the Osprey, its head and wings remained free, and it was able to escape before the other pelicans arrived. I hope my image of this rare event inspires the viewer to appreciate the existential struggles that wildlife face.

16. Black-legged Kittiwake by Jen Waicukauski

Category: AmateurLocation: Svalbard, NorwayCamera: Nikon Z9 with a Nikon NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S lens; 1/1600 second at f/5; ISO 800Behind the Shot: The midnight sun had just begun setting after nearly six months of daylight. We caught a glimpse of Arctic foxes playing near the beach below the Ossian Sars bird cliffs and hoped to spot them again, though it was late and the light was dimming. Black-legged Kittiwakes use the cliffs to try to evade predators like the foxes, and it is mesmerizing to watch the hunters navigate the ledges, which tower hundreds of feet above the sea. Bird flu and climate change have taken a significant toll on both the kittiwakes and the foxes in recent years. To see predator and prey, aware of each other and coexisting, makes it clear how intertwined all life is within this fragile ecosystem.

17. Pileated Woodpecker by Jan Nickols

Category: AmateurLocation: Dunedin, FloridaCamera: Sony Alpha 7R IV with a Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens; 1/1250 second at f/6.3; ISO 1250Behind the Shot: Pileated Woodpeckers are elusive in the densely populated area where I live, but I spotted this nest in a dead sabal palm at the entrance to Hammock Park. First, I noticed the parents disappearing into a hole in the tree, then three young faces popped out. The chicks’ raucous calls for food varied from short to long, and I found myself rooting for the youngest. By mid-morning, the Florida light is harsh, so I learned to get there early for some amazing behavior shots between the chicks and their parents—and to be careful where I stood, since I had to constantly dodge bikers and cars from a dog park. When the young fledged, I was sorry to see them go. 

18. Brown Creeper by Aranya Karighattam

Category: YouthLocation: Concord, MassachusettsCamera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens; 1/400 second at f/7.1; ISO 1000Behind the Shot: As I walked through the Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge, I heard a few sweet, high-pitched tsee notes nearby. I scanned the surrounding trees to locate the songbird. With some effort, I found this beautiful Brown Creeper climbing a large deciduous tree, its mottled brown and white feather patterns blending in perfectly with the hues and ridges of the tree trunk. As I peered through my viewfinder and began clicking, I was delighted to see “a piece of bark come to life,” as field guide author Kenn Kaufman befittingly described the little bird. Brown Creepers and other birds depend on mature forests and woodlands, so it is crucial that we protect their habitats to help them thrive. 

19. Red Knot by Kyle Maitland

Category: AmateurLocation: McLaughlin Bay, Ontario, CanadaCamera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens and a Canon Extender EF 1.4x III; 1/2000 second at f/5.6; ISO 2000Behind the Shot: After work on a nice September day, I headed to a beach where I often have good luck with shorebirds. I encountered a mixed flock that included a Baird’s Sandpiper, a Stilt Sandpiper, and this Red Knot in fresh juvenile plumage, with neat scalloping on the upperparts. I set up at a good distance to watch and wait, hoping they would wander in my direction. After some time, as the sun began to set, the plants at the top of the slope caught wonderful shadows. It was windy enough for waves and spray, and the mix of warm sunset lighting and shadows produced a rich tapestry of bokeh balls and color, creating a surreal atmosphere.

20. Brown Pelican by Jean Hall 

Category: AmateurLocation: Marco Island, FloridaCamera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Canon S II USM 24-105mm f/4 lens; 1/2000 second at f/7.1; ISO 800Behind the Shot: I was lucky enough to accompany a state biologist by kayak as she surveyed this rookery in the ABC Islands Critical Wildlife Area. The boat was pretty bouncy, so focusing the camera was a challenge. It was also a very bright day with harsh shadows, and only one side of the island presented any possibility of a decent shot. As we paddled, we had to be careful not to spook the birds. Nesting season is a fragile time because the young can fall out of the nest into the water. But the Brown Pelicans were relaxed as they preened at this dilapidated nesting platform, which they had repurposed from a wooden blind erected decades ago. The mangroves where they nest are vegetative jewels in Florida and the Caribbean, protecting shorelines, harboring fish, and providing habitat for several bird species.

21. Boat-tailed Grackle by Stacy Alger

Category: ProfessionalLocation: Amelia Island, FloridaCamera: Nikon Z 7II with a Nikon NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S lens; 1/1000 second at f/10; ISO 1000Behind the Shot: I had been photographing birds of the East Coast but had yet to reach Florida, so I traveled to Amelia Island. I had been shooting since daybreak and noticed fishermen along a bridge and plenty of small birds hanging out near them. I made my way there and saw that the birds were not shy and didn’t seem to care that I was nearby. This particular Boat-tailed Grackle, its iridescent blue feathers resembling motor oil, was on a mission to consume the sea creature in its grasp. I gradually moved closer, slowly, so as not to startle my subject. This grackle focused on eating. I kept shooting. 

22. Osprey by Holly Fasching

Category: AmateurLocation: Cora, WyomingCamera: Sony Alpha 7 IV with a Tamron 150-500mm f/5-6.7, Di III VC VXD lens; 1/800 second at f/5.6; ISO 160Behind the Shot: I woke up in a cool and dark bunkhouse and pulled on my boots. The sun was just rising over the Wind River Range foothills as I headed out to watch a cattle drive with my fellow Lehigh University students. I had never left the East Coast before, and I had no idea how the trip would change my life. During lunch near a small lake, my professor and I took our cameras to the water’s edge. He spotted two Bald Eagles and movement on the ridgeline behind them caught my eye. In a flurry of activity, I snapped two shots. I had not seen the bird in enough detail to identify it and wasn’t even sure the images were in focus. That night, I went through my photos: cattle, scenic views, eagles—and an Osprey. The image is more than just a lucky shot. It symbolizes my first adventure away from home, taking flight, and finding my wings. 

23. Peregrine Falcon by Karen Bilgrai Cohen

Category: AmateurLocation: San Pedro, CaliforniaCamera: SONY Alpha 1 with a Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens; 1/3200 second at f/4.5; ISO 250Behind the Shot: For many years, I have observed these falcons, which nest in a cliff above the Pacific Ocean at Point Fermin. To photograph them, I clamber over a cement barrier with my gear and stand on a windy cliff edge, waiting for the falcons to come together and perform their aerial ballet. This male snatches birds from the air at high speeds to offer to his partner during the breeding months, strengthening their bond and ensuring that the female is well-fed while she incubates eggs. Right before this shot, a piercing call broke the silence, and the male falcon appeared with prey in his beak. He dropped it, and in a heartbeat, the female falcon caught her gift. Witnessing the midair exchange fills me with hope that the next generation of peregrines will survive and thrive. 

24. King Penguin by Steffen Foerster

Category: AmateurLocation: Volunteer Point, Falkland IslandsCamera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS USM lens; 1/1000 second at f/2.8; ISO 4000 Behind the Shot: I photographed a group of King Penguins emerging from the ocean on a cloudy summer morning. I laid flat on the shore to capture the dramatic sky and the reflections in the wet sand. Sea lions regularly patrol the near-shore waters, so it was possible that the large predators could crash through the waves and attempt a kill. As I watched the penguins gather in front of me, one pointed its head toward the clouds and trumpeted. It felt like the penguin was celebrating safely reaching the shores for another day. I was fully content with the beautiful and peaceful scene.

25. House Wren by Kevin Ni

Category: AmateurLocation: Newton, MassachusettsCamera: Nikon Z7 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens and Nikon FTZ Mount Adaptor; 1/640 second at f/5.6; ISO 2500 Behind the Shot: On a summer evening in Washington Park Historic District, my wife and I took a stroll, enjoying the breeze. During the walk, I captured a moment that now resonates deeply: a vigilant House Wren delicately balanced on a weathered wooden fence, clutching an insect in its beak. The bird momentarily paused amid a backdrop of lush hibiscus foliage. The gentle verdant hues, blurred to perfection, beckon me into a world where the wren’s seamless integration with its environment is evident.

26. Burrowing Owl by Paulette Donnellon 

Category: AmateurLocation: Calipatria, California Camera: Sony Alpha 1 with a Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens and a UV filter; 1/400 second f/6.3; ISO 125 Behind the Shot: In late June, I found myself in the scorching dry heat of early morning, the temperature soaring over 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the desert farmlands of Southern California’s Imperial County. I parked my car along a dusty dirt road at the Sonny Bono Salton Sea National Wildlife Refuge and sat with the windows rolled down in a futile attempt to invite a breeze. The air around me shimmered, and flies intruded upon the sanctuary of my vehicle, incessantly buzzing. Amid this arid landscape, a captivating scene unfolded before me: three juvenile Burrowing Owls peeked out from their burrow, their curious eyes eagerly scanning their surroundings. Imperial County proudly claims to host 70 percent of the state’s Burrowing Owl population, highlighting its vital role as a sanctuary for these remarkable creatures. 

27. California Condor by Andrew Orr 

Category: AmateurLocation: Vermilion Cliffs, Arizona Camera: Nikon D800E remotely triggered using PocketWizard remote triggers with a Nikon 16-35mm f/4G ED VR lens; 1/320 second at f/10; ISO 200 Behind the Shot: Standing majestically on the rugged cliff’s edge, California Condor #731 poses against the backdrop of northern Arizona’s Vermilion Cliffs. This wild condor is part of the California Condor reintroduction program aimed at restoring populations to their historic range. Previously, condor #731 received treatment for lead poisoning—an ongoing issue for condors that ingest lead ammunition fragments in the carrion they eat. To get this shot, I used a remote camera setup and positioned myself 100 feet from the bird so I wouldn’t disturb her. Using a wide-angle lens with preset focus and a high aperture to increase depth of field, I made sure the bird would be in focus and manually triggered the shutter. 

28. Eastern Screech-Owl by Kelley Luikey

Category: Professional Location: Green Pond, South Carolina Camera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon EF 600 f/4L IS III USM lens; 1/500 second at f/4; ISO 4000 Behind the Shot: I found a tree cavity a few years ago while searching for owls. Occasionally, on a cold day, an Eastern Screech-Owl could be found sleeping in it while soaking up the sun’s warmth. As I drove by to check one morning, I found a red morph in the cavity. The owls usually duck down as soon as they see you, so I remained in my car in the hopes that the owl would stay put and I would be able to take my time photographing it. I played with the early morning light filling the forest around the tree by slowly rolling my car back and forth, shooting different compositions. This was my favorite: I love how it highlights how tiny the Eastern Screech-Owl is. 

29. Gulls by Subha Joshi

Category: AmateurLocation: San Mateo County, California Camera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L IS USM lens; 1/400 second at f/4.5; ISO 2000 Behind the Shot: I usually neglect gulls when I’m out taking photos. While photographing the sunset at Martin’s Beach, infamous for high tides and killer waves, I didn’t have my wildlife lens on my camera. But, as they say, the best lens is whatever you have on. I am always on the lookout for things that define scale or tell a story, and that evening the crashing waves against this huge rock held all my attention. But something was missing, despite some color in the sky. That’s when I noticed two gulls taking refuge, or perhaps admiring the view, up on the rock. I found what I was looking for. The pair tied the picture together well for me. 

30. Canada Goose by Jedidiah Gray 

Category: YouthLocation: Barton, Vermont Camera: Nikon D850 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR lens; 1/320 second at f/5.6; ISO 1250Behind the Shot: Spring is often cold and wet in my home state of Vermont, and Canada Geese become a common sight as they migrate north. They don’t usually stop on our land, but I noticed two in our backyard feeding on grass. Much to my surprise, they were there for a few days, so I couldn’t help but take my camera out. Despite being such a common bird, I found this Canada Goose to be beautiful and striking against the backdrop of spring rain and the brilliant green grass. 

31. Common Goldeneye by Teresa Cheng

Category: AmateurLocation: Mountain View, California Camera: Nikon Z9 with a Nikon NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S lens; 1/2000 second at f/9; ISO 1250 Behind the Shot: I went to Shoreline Lake to observe the courting behaviors of the Common Goldeneyes. The males’ iridescent heads and contrasting yellow eyes make them wonderful subjects, especially when they perform courtship displays. As I watched, I noticed both males and females “rush” across the water toward other goldeneyes, running and flapping their wings, and then gliding to a stop. This overcast morning, all the colors were muted shades of gray. Once in a while, the goldeneyes would go underwater and then glide up to the surface. This was my favorite image of the day because it captured an unexpected moment. 

32. Western Gull by Robert Gloeckner

Category: AmateurLocation: San Diego, California Camera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF400 F2.8 L IS USM lens; 1/2000 second at f/2.8; ISO 160 Behind the Shot: When hiking the steep and rough terrain of La Jolla in the early morning, I spotted a Western Gull flying in and out from the cliffs. I knew they prefer nesting on the ground, particularly where short plants or rocky terrain provide cover and isolation from predators like foxes and coyotes. I climbed to get a little closer, being careful not to slip off the rocks, and the gull was posing perfectly. The light illuminated the cliffs behind it, giving a nice contrast. This is a special photo to me because it captures the bird perfectly in its environment, not to mention the danger in climbing around to get into position. 

33. Variable Oystercatcher by Steffen Foerster

Category: AmateurLocation: Rodney, New Zealand Camera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 100-500mm F/4.5-7.1 L IS USM lens; 1/1000 second at f/7.1; ISO 3200 Behind the Shot: Oystercatchers are widely known as birds of the ocean shores, where they use their long, strong bills to extract mollusks and crustaceans hiding in the sand. After photographing a family of oystercatchers at a nearby beach at Tawharanui Regional Park, I packed up my gear and walked back to the parking lot. But as I passed a field of flowering bunny tail grass, I saw a black head pop up: an oystercatcher! I quickly unpacked my gear hoping the bird would hang around. It cooperated just long enough for me to capture a few frames. This brief, unexpected encounter was one of the most memorable images of my month-long trip through New Zealand.

34. Common Tern by Maria Khvan

Category: AmateurLocation: Nassau County, New York Camera: Sony a9 II with a Sony FE 600mm F/4 GM OSS lens; 1/2500 second at f/5.6; ISO 1250Behind the Shot: At sunset, I went to a beach known for its shorebird colonies, hoping to photograph the birds in flight with the sun behind them. I noticed one Common Tern chasing another. I came up with this image after quickly adjusting the settings to get both birds in focus and capture their backlit feathers. It was somewhat difficult with the terns flying so fast, but I got the shot I wanted.

35. Wilson’s Snipe by Jedidiah Gray

Category: YouthLocation: Barton, Vermont Camera: Nikon D850 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR lens; 1/640 second at f/4; ISO 800 Behind the Shot: At our home in Vermont, I had been hearing a snipe calling out for several days. I was excited because snipes are rarely sighted here, and only in the spring. But I could not find it. One day, I was photographing a robin when I noticed a shorebird in the background. I realized it was the snipe. The bird was very curious and kept coming closer. Snipes are usually shy, so I was ecstatic when I got a close-up photo that perfectly captures mud season in Vermont, with the bird’s reflection in a puddle amid the muddy grass and falling snow. 

36. Mourning Dove by James Tornetta

Category: YouthLocation: Gladwyne, Pennsylvania Camera: Canon EOS R5 with a RF 100-500mm F/4.5-7.1 L IS USM lens; 1/3200 second at f/6.3; ISO 4000 Behind the Shot: One especially cold and snowy January morning, I looked out the window and noticed a small flock of Mourning Doves huddled close together for warmth in a tree in my front yard. I had scattered some sunflower seeds the night before, and I knew that the doves would soon descend from the tree, craving extra energy on this chilly day. In my mind, I pictured the beauty of a dove in flight, gracefully descending through the falling snow. I headed out front, intent on capturing the vision. While I spent many hours photographing various species of birds that morning, my favorite image of the day surpassed even my greatest expectations. 

37. Peregrine Falcon by Trish Oster

Category: AmateurLocation: San Pedro, California Camera: Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 100-500mm F/4.5-7.1 L IS USM lens; 1/3200 second at f/7.1; ISO 2000 Behind the Shot: This past year, this Peregrine Falcon couple welcomed four eyases. The busy parents worked hard to keep the youngsters fed. The female in my photo was feeding one of the smaller eyases, which caused the two larger siblings, who had already had their share of the meal, to become agitated. One loudly begged, and the other sibling looked down with what seemed like an annoyed expression. I was handholding my camera, and the birds were moving quite erratically, so I used a higher shutter speed to obtain a sharp focus. The subtle colors of the ground cover, along with the muted background, gave the image a softer look and made the falcons stand out.  

38. Neotropic Cormorant by Turgay Uzer

Category: AmateurLocation: Mato Grosso, Brazil Camera: Sony Alpha 1 with a Sony 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens; 1/2500 second at f/6.3; ISO 3200 Behind the Shot: Wherever there are fish, there are cormorants—the branches of the Rio Cuiaba in Brazil’s Encontro das Águas State Park in the Pantanal teem with the birds. They dive for long periods and bring their catch to the surface to swallow. Gulping a big catch calls for acrobatics: This bird tossed the fish in the air for over an hour to put it on the right trajectory. I handheld my heavy zoom lens for maximum flexibility and did not rest my sore arm even for a moment. Finally, the fish went down its gullet, and I successfully caught the lightning-fast moment thanks to my camera’s high frame rate. 

39. American Dipper by Asher Lee

Category: YouthLocation: Zion National Park, Utah Camera: Canon EOS R8 with a Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L IS USM lens; 1/8 second at f/8; ISO 100 Behind the Shot: I headed to the Virgin River with the photograph I wanted in mind: an American Dipper in rushing, motion-blurred water. I climbed into my waders, attached a monopod to my camera, and started up the river in search of this small, bobbing bird. After a half-mile hike, I found my target. I slowly and carefully crept into the river and waited for the right moment. I lowered my shutter speed to blur the water while keeping the bird in focus. After about three seconds of shooting, the bird hopped to another perch downstream and my chance was over. Once I made my way out of the river, I was thrilled to find that I had captured just the photo I envisioned. 

40. Grasshopper Sparrow by Matthew Bode

Category: AmateurLocation: Highgate, Vermont Camera: Nikon D500 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens; 1/320 second at f/5.6; ISO 160 Behind the Shot: Grasshopper Sparrows are in steep decline, primarily because of habitat loss. In Vermont, there are few known places where they breed. One location is a municipal airport, where they use habitat surrounding the runways. With low-lying grass and few natural perches, many of the sparrows take to sitting on the security fence to survey the area and sing their buzzy songs. After many outings spent waiting for these birds to choose a natural perch, I finally decided to accept the fact that their chosen habitat includes a human element. This image embraces that urban impact.  

41. Mandarin Duck by Jedidiah Gray 

Category: YouthLocation: Datong Township, Yilan County, Taiwan Camera: NIKON Z7 II with a Nikon NIKKOR Z 400mm f/4.5 VR S lens and Nikon Z Teleconverter TC-1.4x; 1/640 second at f/6.3; ISO 500 Behind the Shot: While visiting the Mingchi National Forest in Taiwan with my grandmother, we encountered a lot of rain. One morning, the rain finally paused. After we emerged from a walk in the fog-shrouded forest, I came across a family of Mandarin Ducks playing in the lake. The ducklings quickly swam back and forth while the mother duck calmly watched. I immediately wanted to capture this duckling’s playfulness, as watching ducks play is an activity that always brings me joy. 

42. Least Tern by Jedidiah Gray

Category: YouthLocation: Newbury, Massachusetts Camera: Nikon D850 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR lens; 1/2000 second at f/5.6; ISO 640 Behind the Shot: Parker River National Wildlife Refuge is a mecca for New England birders, so I convinced my mom to take me there. With my younger siblings in tow, we drove four hours to the site. There was only one problem: The weather forecast predicted thunderstorms. I got in a few hours of photographing before the sky grew dark and the rain began. We waited by a salt pond near the refuge gate for the sun to come out. When it did, I rolled down the car window to photograph a hunting Least Tern. While mosquitoes filled the car and my mom and siblings complained, I got my shot: a tern hovering in the sky before it dove into the water to catch a fish. Soon after, the clouds covered the sun again, and the beautiful light disappeared. 

43. American Robin by Ann Merritt

Category: AmateurLocation: Roseville, Minnesota Camera: Canon EOS R6 with a Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L IS USM lens and a Canon Extender RF 1.4x; 1/2000 second at f/11; ISO 2000 Behind the Shot: Finding birds to photograph can be a challenge, so I often stop by my local park that has crabapple trees to see what birds might be snacking on the fruit. I most often find Cedar Waxwings and American Robins. On this day, the trees were loaded with fruit and packed with birds. It was a joy to watch this robin for a long time on a very cold day eating its fill. 

44. Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Jedidiah Gray 

Category: YouthLocation: Barton, Vermont Camera: Nikon D850 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 180-400mm f/4E TC1.4 FL ED VR lens; 1/1250 second at f/5.6; ISO 500 Behind the Shot: For several weeks, I had been photographing hummingbirds in flight around my feeder in Vermont. I wanted to capture them doing something different, so I set up a perch nearby. On the first day, many hummingbirds visited the feeder, but they didn’t use the perch. On the second day, not many hummingbirds arrived, but I kept waiting. Finally, one came. After feeding for a few minutes, it perched on the branch and began preening, allowing me to capture many photos of it—including this one of the bird with its foot in its bill, showcasing its delicate parts. 

45. Red-tailed Hawk by Ewa Golebiowska

Category: AmateurLocation: Milford, Michigan Camera: Sony Alpha 1 with a Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens; 1/2000 second at f/8; ISO 1250 Behind the Shot: I noticed a Red-tailed Hawk perching right above my trail when I was at Kensington Metropark early one morning. I continued walking and stopped a good distance away to take some photos. Just as I was about to move on, this hawk flew across the trail, grabbed an American red squirrel from the edge of the marsh, and brought it back to a tree. I tried not to feel bad for the squirrel because I know birds of prey are an important part of the ecosystem and few survive to adulthood. I even felt happy the hawk caught breakfast—until I got home and downloaded the images. The squirrel looks like it is making a last-ditch effort to survive, begging the hawk to let it live. 

46. Great Blue Heron by Hector Cordero 

Category: ProfessionalLocation: Harrison County, Texas Camera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L IS USM lens; 1/25 second at f/7.1; ISO 250 Behind the Shot: I consider it essential to reflect the environment where birds live when I photograph—sometimes the environment is even more evocative than the bird itself. I visited an area in East Texas with the aim of documenting birds that live in swamps. The day before, I found a Great Blue Heron. Early the next morning, I returned, and the heron was still flying and fishing. It perched on the side of a lake where the bald cypresses seemed to envelop it, giving the image an almost magical atmosphere. I was able to take only two photographs before it flew off.  

47. Great Gray Owl by Protik Mohammad Hossain 

Category: AmateurLocation: Logan Lake, British Columbia, Canada Camera: Sony Alpha 1 with a Sony 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens; 1/3200 second at f/4; ISO 640 Behind the Shot: It was late afternoon and sunlight streamed through tall trees, casting dramatic light and shadows across the forest. After hours of observing this masterfully skilled Great Gray Owl, I was able to anticipate its flight path and position myself to capture this magnificent scene of the bird clutching a gopher for one of its five hungry owlets. To manage the challenging lighting conditions, I adjusted my camera settings to fully utilize the dual-gain sensor’s dynamic range, ensuring a stunning image whether the owl flew through sun or shade. 

48. Osprey by Alan Wilder 

Category: AmateurLocation: Bethany Beach, Delaware Camera: Nikon Z9 with a Nikon NIKKOR AF-S 600mm f/4E FL ED VR lens and Nikon TC-17E II Teleconverter; 1/1600 second at f/8; ISO 800 Behind the Shot: Another photographer tipped me off to an Osprey nest with nestlings, and I attempted to capture the scene from the boardwalk trail at the Bethany Beach Nature Center, located a few hundred meters away from the marsh. I visited in the early morning before the heat from the July sun could create thermal distortions in the atmosphere. It proved to be the perfect time to catch an Osprey feeding fresh fish to its young. After setting up, I shot in continuous burst mode to catch an image where the key elements were properly focused and in the same plane.  

49. Great Horned Owl by Kshanti Greene 

Category: AmateurLocation: West Gardiner, Maine Camera: Nikon D750 with a Tamron 100-400mm F/4.5-6.3 Di VC USD lens; 1/10 second at f/6.3; ISO 9000 Behind the Shot: Along the stream that separates our property from the neighbor’s, there is a dead elm tree that we call “The Commons” because of all the different birds that visit it. A Great Horned Owl sometimes perches there at dusk for just a moment before going out to hunt. We see it often enough to warrant giving it a name: Hornby. On this summer evening, a storm had just blown through. The setting sun was casting its last rays of light on the storm clouds to the east. I grabbed my tripod and set up in the shadow of our house. I was lucky that the owl didn’t move for the long exposure, and that the fading light was collecting in its glowing eyes. A nor’easter has since blown down Hornby’s favorite perch, but the owl still visits a different branch a couple times a month. 

50. Great Blue Heron by Kort Duce 

Category: ProfessionalLocation: Longmont, Colorado Camera: Nikon D3S with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR lens; 1/250 second at f/2.8; ISO 400 Behind the Shot: Old gravel pits turned into ponds and wetlands provide essential habitat for Great Blue Herons making their home on the Front Range of Colorado. With heron rookeries surrounding Longmont to the east, south, and west of town, many birds fly to these ponds to fish, including this one in the Izaak Walton Nature Area. On this day, I watched this heron catch three fish: one in daylight, one at sunset, and one in the dark. The heron was oblivious to me photographing its hunt. Pretty amazing to watch. 

51. Southern Rockhopper Penguin by Jacqueline Burke

Category: AmateurLocation: Saunders Island, Falkland Islands Camera: Olympus OM-1 with an OM SYSTEM M. Zuiko 150-400mm f/4.5 TC 1.25 IS PRO lens; 1/2500 second at f/7.1; ISO 1600 Behind the Shot: At the site called “The Rookery,” fresh water flows down from a spring high in the cliffs and cascades over a ledge. In the afternoon, Rockhopper Penguins returning from a day of fishing like to rinse the salt water from their bodies at the “rockhopper shower” before making the arduous uphill climb to their nests. The rockhopper colony at this site is very large, and the shower was often crowded with penguins who would fight for a chance to stand under it. I was beginning to think that I would not obtain any useable photos when at last, a single penguin approached the shower at an angle where I could take a nice photo. 

52. Snowy Egret by Nick Stroh

Category: AmateurLocation: Eastern Shore, Maryland Camera: Sony Alpha 1 with a Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens; 1/1600 second at f/4; ISO 1600 Behind the Shot: After hours lying in the mud in the marshes of Maryland’s Eastern Shore, just at the end of sunrise’s golden hour, a Snowy Egret flew in close to me to hunt. The morning sun turned the background to gold and cast a nice, even light on the subject. I watched the bird hunt, hoping to capture some action before these perfect conditions changed. Luckily, I caught this frame right at the moment the bird flipped its prey in the air, repositioning the fish to swallow it. The image also shows how Snowy Egrets scare their prey by casting shadows with their wings, causing small fish to jump. I was happy to capture two aspects of this species’ distinct hunting behavior in a single image. 

53. Greater and Lesser Prairie-Chicken by Mike Timmons

Category: AmateurLocation: Hays, Kansas Camera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon EF 600mm f/4 IS III USM lens with Canon Mount Adapter EF-EOS R; 1/3200 second at f/4; ISO 1250 Behind the Shot: It was our last morning of shooting at a lek. We made the pre-dawn trip and set up blinds with an hour to spare before sunrise. Before the sun peeked above the horizon, we heard the wobbly booms and staccato pops of Greater and Lesser Prairie-Chickens. As the light spread, the cacophony of cries, cackles, booms, and stomping grew. Directly in front of us, the Lesser Prairie-Chickens competed for center stage. Off to our right stood a lone male Greater Prairie-Chicken. Whatever invisible boundaries marked these two species’ areas apparently overlapped. This pair—one Lesser, one Greater—held ground next to each other and battled throughout the morning. It would be easy to assume that this contest favored the larger bird, but the Lesser Prairie-Chicken sometimes came out on top. 

54. Hooded Merganser by Kenneth Lui

Category: AmateurLocation: San Francisco, California Camera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 600mm f/4 L IS USM and a Canon Extender RF1.4x; 1/1600 second at f/5.6; ISO 4000 Behind the Shot: I love Hooded Mergansers for their beauty and outstanding hunting skill. On a gloomy morning, I visited Mallard Lake in Golden Gate Park and found them there, as expected. I sat low and stayed quiet, waiting for them to come close, but for hours they remained far away. To make matters worse, it began to rain, and although I brought a protective cover for my camera gear, I forgot my raincoat. I was about to quit when I saw a male start to hunt. Before I knew it, he’d caught a huge crawfish and moved close to me. Mergansers can swallow a small crawfish in a few seconds, but this supersized one took him almost a minute, which allowed me to take a few hundred pictures. Though I ended up dripping in water, I knew I got some nice shots. 

55. Great Horned Owl by Christy Grinton 

Category: AmateurLocation: Victoria, British Columbia, Canada Camera: Canon EOS R5 with a RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L IS USM lens; 1/500 second at f/7.1; ISO 2000 Behind the Shot: Beacon Hill Park is a very busy park in Victoria. Along one of the main roads at the park’s edge, this hollow snag harbored a secret: a nest of beautiful Great Horned Owls. After hearing about it from a friend, I found the tree and saw two little owlets poking out of a hole about 40 feet up, the adult fast asleep behind them. I occasionally continued to stop by to see how the family was doing, sitting on a bench on the sidewalk waiting to see what would happen. I took this photo from the sidewalk about 50 feet away to get a head-on angle—most passersby ignored me or assumed I was photographing the wildflowers in bloom. Seeing the mom’s bright eye watching me from above was unforgettable.

56. Spotted Sandpiper by Jedidiah Gray 

Category: YouthLocation: San Francisco, California Camera: Nikon D850 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens; 1/800 second at f/5.6; ISO 640 Behind the Shot: While visiting family in San Francisco, I convinced my great-uncle to drive me to Heron’s Head Park. I found out on eBird that there was a rare Rock Sandpiper returning there every year to overwinter. We arrived half an hour before sunset, so I didn’t have much time. I searched for the bird on the rocks along the water but was not able to find it. Just as the sun was setting, I found an equally interesting subject: a Spotted Sandpiper foraging. I was impressed that this little bird could skillfully move on the rocks despite the big crashing waves. When I reviewed my photos, I was pleasantly surprised to find this shot of the sandpiper with the waves just covering the rocks, the bird appearing to walk on water. 

57. Canada Goose by James Fatemi

Category: YouthLocation: Alexandria, Virginia Camera: Nikon Z8 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR lens and Nikon FTZ II Adapter; 1/2000 second at f/4; ISO 1600 Behind the Shot: During a morning at Huntley Meadows Park, I noticed a family of Canada Geese foraging along the marsh plants. As I lowered myself to frame the adult and goslings at eye level, I was lucky enough to catch the moment when the two goslings ran back to their parents. The gosling on the left’s slight lead allowed me to focus on the other gosling. The adult in the background led to a composition that highlighted the goslings’ desire to be in the safety of their parent. 

58. Gentoo Penguin by Jacqueline Burke 

Category: AmateurLocation: Bleaker Island, Falkland Islands Camera: OM SYSTEM OM-1 with an OM SYSTEM M. Zuiko 150-400mm f/4.5 TC 1.25 IS PRO lens; 1/13 second at f/5; ISO 320 Behind the Shot: We got up very early to see Gentoo Penguins leave their nests and enter the sea to fish. It was very cold and extremely windy, and I had a hard time changing the settings on my camera with my numb fingers. Before the trip, I envisioned using a slow shutter speed to obtain a photo of a stationary penguin surrounded by soft surf. I tried many times to get the image I wanted, but the penguins dove too quickly into the sea. Finally, this individual stopped before entering the surf, allowing me to capture it standing still while the sea went soft. I used my camera’s live neutral density feature, which allowed me to reduce the exposure by as much as six stops, to get the photo I wanted.  

59. Western Grebe by Parham Pourahmad 

Category: YouthLocation: San Jose, California Camera: Nikon D3500 with a Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens; 1/1600 second at f/6.3; ISO 360 Behind the Shot: For a while, I’d been trying to get a photo of Western Grebes rushing—a mating dance where both birds run on water. The birds stretch out their necks and call to each other. Then, they coordinate to burst out of the water at the same time and sprint for a few seconds before plunging back in. On this occasion, I had been at Calero County Park for more than an hour and hadn’t seen a single rush. Finally, I noticed a pair calling very close to me. I knew I was too close to capture the action properly, so I sprinted backwards and laid down on the ground to get a good angle. I watched and photographed as the grebes rushed directly at me. 

60. Ring-billed Gull and Herring Gull by Joshua Ward North

Category: AmateurLocation: Brooklyn, New York Camera: Canon EOS R5 with a RF 70-200mm F/2.8 L IS lens and Haida 1000x ND Filter; 30 second at f/5.6; ISO 200 Behind the Shot: I was on a photography date with my partner on the East River. I was shooting long exposures of the New York City skyline at sunset using a neutral-density filter, but it was not the spectacular sunset I was hoping for. When not getting images I am thrilled with, I like to turn around and face the other direction. This method proved successful when all the gulls that had been flying overhead began landing on pilings opposite the sunset. I decided to keep my camera settings for the long exposures with my filter to see what interesting results I would get, knowing the water and birds could be blurred. I love the effect I achieved: an otherworldly and almost eerie scene. 

61. Geese by Julia Willmann

Category: ProfessionalLocation: Troy, Missouri Camera: Sony a7 III with a Sony FE 24-105mm F/4 G OSS lens; 1/2500 second at f/4.0; ISO 400 Behind the Shot: On a gloomy winter day, I sat inside watching my feeder birds eating their seeds through my favorite window when I heard what sounded like a flock of geese. I scanned the sky and saw a blur of birds coming toward me over the tree line. Patterns and shapes emerged within their formation, so I put my camera against the window and snapped away. When I looked at my photographs, I saw what looked like a sketch of a mountainscape. It was one of the coolest things I’ve seen in my birdwatching. I ran out the door and continued to photograph the birds as they changed their patterns, switching out their front fliers and heading off into the distance.  

62. Long-tailed Tit by Michele McCormick 

Category: Amateur Location: Hokkaido, Japan Camera: Sony Alpha 1 with a Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens; 1/400 second at f/8; ISO 3200 Behind the Shot: I was with a group at Lake Kushiro, and one of our members noticed this Long-tailed Tit frequently returning to lick an icicle hanging from a maple tree. I set up my tripod and maintained focus on the icicle for more than an hour. Catching the right timing, positioning of the bird, and lighting was a challenge. Every visit was just a split second, and the bird came in at a different angle each time. Intervals between visits were inconsistent and unpredictable—plus I was standing on ice and my tripod kept shifting off the key point. At last, I felt I had a good image. I wanted to keep trying to be sure, but the sun warmed the icicle and it fell to the ground. The opportunity was over.

63. Double-crested Cormorant by Dani Davis 

Category: AmateurLocation: Tallahassee, Florida Camera: Canon EOS 7D with a Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 lens; 1/800 second at f/6.3; ISO 250 Behind the Shot: There is a small lake behind a suburban neighborhood near my house. It’s not the kind of place that comes to mind when you think “wild cypress swamp,” but it’s close to home, and the first time I paddled out in my 8-foot kayak, I immediately fell in love. I got to know the resident egrets, when and where the ibis would land, how the moon rose over the trees, and which cypress the cormorants enjoyed the most. On this morning, the wind whipped my kayak around. The Spanish moss draped above and below the cormorants like curtains, the birds themselves seated at the top of this cypress like gargoyles on a cathedral. Their dark silhouettes against the bright morning sky mixed with the reds, oranges, and browns of the trees accentuated the scene’s painting-like aesthetic. 

64. Hooded Merganser by Edwin Liu

Category: YouthLocation: Etobicoke, Ontario Camera: Sony Alpha 7R IV camera with a Sony 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens; 1/2500 second at f/4; ISO 500 Behind the Shot: Last November, after several days of filming and observing, I photographed a pair of Hooded Mergansers in a pond along Lake Ontario near Toronto at Colonel Samuel Smith Park. With its large crest that resembles a brown hood, the Hooded Merganser is one of the most striking birds in North America. For this shot, I wanted to try out different backlighting techniques. I put the tripod in the water and held the camera above the water so I could take photos at eye level and caught this female flapping her wings after eating a fish in the sun. 

65. Purple Martin by Graham Gerdeman 

Category: ProfessionalLocation: Nashville, Tennessee Camera: Nikon Z9 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8E ED VR; 1/320 second at f/2.8; ISO 8000 Behind the Shot: Every year, Purple Martins gather in huge nightly roosts before fall migration. For the past several summers, 200,000 birds or more have filled Nashville’s skies, spiraling down to the trees lining streets and plazas. I’ve helped to monitor and document the martins since they first appeared downtown. The area is full of tourists; rock and country music blare from every corner. Why would they choose such an unlikely location? We don’t know. It’s difficult to photograph a massive flock in a way that makes a compelling image, especially in low lighting. Here, I incorporated two Nashville landmarks for a sense of perspective. The statues also provide a dramatic human element. I really got lucky with a frame that captures the spiraling motion of the martins’ descent. 

66. Short-eared Owl by Lauren Bettino 

Category: AmateurLocation: San Rafael, California Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens and a Canon Extender EF 1.4x III; 1/2000 second at f/8; ISO 1000 Behind the Shot: I originally headed to the Las Gallinas Wildlife Ponds hoping to photograph river otters, bitterns, and raptors such as harriers. As I walked along the edge of a large grassland, a low-flying figure caught my eye. I assumed the bird was a Northern Harrier and lifted my camera to shoot, but very quickly realized I was looking at a Short-eared Owl. It gracefully sliced through the air with outspread wings and then abruptly fluttered like a moth. Suddenly otters and harriers sounded mundane. I returned the following night and set up along the trail where I’d have a good chance of a fly-by. Just as the sun had set on most of the field, it soared past me, perfectly illuminated by a few remaining rays.  

67. Wood Duck by Scott Suriano

Category: AmateurLocation: Baltimore County, Maryland Camera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon EF 500mm f/4 IS II USM lens and a Canon Extender EF 1.4x III; 1/500 second at f/5.6; ISO 1250 Behind the Shot: One spring morning, I drove to a local pond to photograph Wood Ducks adorned in vibrant breeding plumage. Before dawn, I donned my waders and quietly slipped into the cool water. A homemade float blind allowed me to shoot just inches above the water’s surface and capture this handsome drake. It’s not often that a plan comes together so well in nature photography, so I was thrilled with the results. I underexposed the image to account for the sunlight’s growing intensity. Being familiar with a camera’s dynamic range and low light capabilities, as well as having a good sense of what you can achieve in post-production, is invaluable when photographing in tricky light situations like this one. 

68. Forster’s Tern by Jack Zhang 

Category: AmateurLocation: Huntington Beach, California Camera: Canon R5 with a Canon RF100-500mm F/4.5-7.1 L IS USM lens; 1/2500 second at f/7.1; ISO 640 Behind the Shot: It was a cloudy morning in early April. I visited my beloved spot, Huntington Beach, hoping to photograph some birds. The day unfolded slowly, but just as I was about to call it quits, a remarkable sight unfolded. In a mesmerizing spectacle, two Forster’s Terns engaged in an elegant mid-air ballet, fiercely vying for dominance in their fishing territory. Their sleek bodies maneuvered gracefully, with bills interlocked, creating a captivating tableau of avian rivalry. Luckily, my camera seized the moment, freezing the dynamic clash of wings and beaks. It was a fantastic experience, showcasing the beauty and complexity of nature. 

69. Wilson’s Plover by Cindy Barbanera 

Category: ProfessionalLocation: Tierra Verde, Florida Camera: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens and clear filter; 1/1000 second at f/4; ISO 4000 Behind the Shot: On Florida’s Gulf Coast, we are lucky to regularly see a variety of plovers. Their existence is tenuous, so the privilege of sharing their environment is never lost on me. When I first spotted this adult on the beach in front of some tall grasses in Fort De Soto Park, I realized it appeared to have too many legs. I laid down on the sand, using another clump of beach grasses as a blind to make myself appear less threatening. I waited quietly for a few minutes to see if the chick would show itself. When it came out from under the protection of its parent’s feathers, I quickly took this shot. Many people seem to be oblivious to small shorebirds, but seeing these tiny lives is always an emotional experience for me. 

70. Black-bellied Plover by Maria Khvan 

Category: AmateurLocation: Pinellas County, Florida Camera: Sony a9 II with a Sony FE 600mm F/4 GM OSS lens; 1/4000 second at f/7.1; ISO 500 Behind the Shot: While at Fort De Soto beach, I noticed a flock of Common Terns and Black Skimmers sitting on a sandbar, with some bathing in the shallow water. I laid on the wet sand to photograph them. Then a Black-bellied Plover appeared in front of me, foraging for marine invertebrates exposed by the low tide. I had to be patient and wait for the plover to face me while it was pulling worms from the sand. I took many shots until I was able to capture one where the bird looked my way with a worm in its bill. 

71. Cormorant by Richard Gin

Category: ProfessionalLocation: Channel Islands National Park, California Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 lens; 1/800 second at f/11; ISO 1000 Behind the Shot: While hiking on Santa Cruz Island, we happened upon a little bay full of cormorants flying back and forth from cliffside to cliffside. Cormorants are common enough, but I noticed the swirling shape the kelp made and waited for one of the birds to pass through the middle. The vastness of the seascape contrasts with the delicacy of the bird’s shape and its reflection. I remember thinking that this cove had everything these animals needed to thrive: safe rocks to roost on, a rich ecosystem full of food beneath the waves, and plenty of opportunities to find a mate—judging by how many birds there were, the sound of their calls, and their particular birdy odor. 

72. Purplish Jay by Kyle Lloyd Arpke

Category: AmateurLocation: Poconé, Mato Grosso, Brazil Camera: Sony Alpha 1 with a Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens; 1/3200 second at f/6.3; ISO 4000 Behind the Shot: I spent the afternoon in a photo blind at a Pantanal waterhole, waiting for large mammals to arrive. The day was quiet and, as the sun began to set, it felt like a bust. As the group debated heading back to the lodge, a Purplish Jay swooped into the area for a drink, followed by a small brocket deer, which cautiously headed past our blind towards the watering hole. Much to our delight, the jay landed on the deer’s antlers and jumped onto its back. The deer didn’t seem bothered as the jay picked a morsel from the deer’s eye and flew off. To see the jay pluck an eye booger was special. 

73. Red-shouldered Hawk by Cindy Barbanera 

Category: ProfessionalLocation: Sarasota, Florida Camera: Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with a EF 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens; 1/640 second at f/4; ISO 4000 Behind the Shot: I took this image in Myakka River State Park, one of the largest parks in Florida and a wonderful place for wildlife photography. My favorite time of day to shoot is in the evenings, when there are fewer people around. Though Florida tends to be very green, one of my tricks to getting more variety of color in my woodland compositions is to look for spots where sunset light is shining on dead, dry brown palm fronds so they appear orange and pink. I arrived at this scene well before the golden hour, but luckily, this hawk was still in the same spot, resting on one foot, when the sunset colors began to light up the scene. I found a composition that framed the bird with the golden patches. 

74. Torrent Duck by Nicolas Devos 

Category: AmateurLocation: Cerro Castillo, Magallanes Region, Chile Camera: Sony Alpha 1 with a Sony 200-600mm F/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens; 1/25 second at f/7.1; ISO 100 Behind the Shot: Torrent Ducks are fascinating birds that live in fast-flowing rivers of the high Andes Mountains. They swim and dive for food in whitewater rivers thanks to their aerodynamic bodies, strong tails, big-webbed feet with claws that can grip stone, and blood adapted to the oxygen-poor, high-altitude air. Even small ducklings manage not to get carried away in the rapids. This female Torrent Duck, photographed during a trip to Torres Del Paine, was unbothered by our presence. She stopped swimming and diving for a few seconds, which allowed me to photograph her with a longer exposure to show the movement of the water. The sun peeked out from behind the clouds, providing a nice reflection of golden light in the river for a brief instant.  

75. Yellow Warbler by Patricia Homonylo 

Category: AmateurLocation: Leamington, Ontario, Canada Camera: Sony a7R IV with a Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens; 1/1600 second at f/6.3; ISO 1600 Behind the Shot: It was my first trip to Point Pelee National Park, a famed spring migration site. It rained every day I was there, so I went out despite the weather. The unexpected result was a portfolio of earthy, moody photographs that are still some of my favorites. While most photographers seem to look up, I often look down to scan for birds, and I’ve always found my favorites foraging low. Still, this Yellow Warbler was a surprise. I am used to spotting these birds in trees and bushes, but this one was hopping from log to log, low in the swamp in search of food.  

76. Red-winged Blackbird by James Fatemi 

Category: YouthLocation: Alexandria, Virginia Camera: Nikon Z9 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/4E FL ED VR lens and Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III; Nikon FTZ II Adapter; 1/500 second at f/5.6; ISO 500 Behind the Shot: The morning was chilly with no wind, ideal for capturing birds’ breath in the sunrise as they sing or call. There were Red-winged Blackbirds on hibiscus stems all throughout the Huntley Meadows Park marsh. The sunlight filtered through the trees and backlit both the bird and the buds of the plants with a golden glow. To capture this photo, I lowered myself to frame other hibiscus stems in the foreground and background and to achieve a high contrast of the breath against the background. 

77. Anhinga by Cami Marculescu

Category: AmateurLocation: Charleston, South Carolina Camera: Sony a7R IV with a Sony FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS lens; 1/400 second at f/4; ISO 160 Behind the Shot: The small pond behind my house is full of birds, Anhingas included. On this particular day, a female Anhinga was drying off her feathers after a successful dive and started to preen. Her elegant curves and expression caught my eye. Though it was difficult to find the right position through the metal fencing that surrounds the pond, I managed to take this photo. Anhingas are often overlooked and considered “ugly.” I hope this portrait conveys their beauty. 

78. Bald Eagle by Dana Beasley 

Category: AmateurLocation: Ridgefield, Washington Camera: Nikon D850 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR; 1/2000 second at f/22; ISO 10,000 Behind the Shot: I had never seen so many Bald Eagles soaring overhead as I did on this misty January day at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge. By early afternoon, a dense fog blanketed the wetlands. Condensation created a beautifully diffused scene—flattening a typically dynamic landscape of forests, meadows, and marshes. As I watched from my car, eagles flew in and out of the mist, their high-pitched cries dampened by the moisture. This juvenile cut through the low-lying clouds, its wings silent and swooping. Gray skies aren’t uncommon in the Pacific Northwest, but the way this fog rolled in felt unique in how it softened the scene, delicately framing the vegetation and each creature that ventured through. 

79. Gentoo Penguin by Steffen Foerster 

Category: AmateurLocation: Volunteer Point, Falkland Islands Camera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon RF 100-500mm F/4.5-7.1 L IS USM lens; 1/1600 second at f/7.1; ISO 1600 Behind the Shot: When I visited a Gentoo Penguin colony on a beautiful summer evening in the Falkland Islands, I noticed it was still cold enough to see the penguins’ breath as they made their mating calls. I had to look from just the right angle and needed a dark background for the vapor to stand out. With only a few minutes before the sun set behind distant hills, I found a position to capture this moment. Besides being an interesting portrait, the image carries additional meaning about the fragility of wildlife at or near the polar regions. Climate change has devastating effects in these parts of the world, warming them beyond recognition. If we don’t act, creatures like these will soon take their last breath. 

80. Ruby-throated Hummingbird by Raul Zabala Belenguer

Category: AmateurLocation: Pembroke, Virginia Camera: Sony a7R II with a 150-500mm F/5-6.7 Di III VC VXD lens; 1/4000 second at f/6.7; ISO 4000 Behind the Shot: This past summer, we visited the Mountain Lake Lodge resort in Virginia. My partner studies hummingbirds, and this was a place where they are quite abundant. I am Spanish, so I had never seen hummingbirds before, and I was super excited. Soon after we arrived, we started wandering though the gardens. Flowers of all colors were blooming under the late afternoon sun. Then I heard the humming. I thought it was bumblebees, but when I paid closer attention to the beautiful iridescence traveling fast between flowers, the hummingbirds were unmistakable. I got the camera out of my bag, configured it quickly, and took a million snaps. One of them was not a blur ball, and it is this one. 

81. American Avocet by Asher Lee 

Category: YouthLocation: Salem, Utah Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark III with a Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens; 1/2000 second at f/8; ISO 800 Behind the Shot: I took this photo in a unique marshy habitat near my hometown. I loved birding at this beautiful place, but unfortunately, development cares little for bird habitat, and this amazing ecosystem has been reduced to a very small area. One evening I noticed American Avocets feeding in the tiny spot preserved for them. I grabbed my camera and carefully crawled into position. I saw one about to stretch, and I immediately released the shutter. As I watched through my viewfinder, I noticed this avocet’s stretch looked like a very delicate dance. I felt compelled to protect its stage so we can keep watching it gracefully move.  

82. Great Horned Owl by Lyndon Norman 

Category: AmateurLocation: Central Alberta, Canada Camera: Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with a Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens; 1/400 second at f/5.6; ISO 400 Behind the Shot: I had been looking for owls in the trees for quite a while when I finally noticed this lighter variation of a Great Horned Owl sitting out on a branch, slightly to the side of the birch tree. I positioned myself to line the owl up with the tree trunk, as I wanted to show off just how camouflaged it was—and even lost the owl in my viewfinder a couple of times while setting up the shot. I then left the owl in peace in such a great spot to ambush its prey. 

83. Northern Flicker by Shaun Antle 

Category: ProfessionalLocation: Corunna, Ontario, Canada Camera: Canon EOS R7 with a Canon RF 100-500mm f/4.5-7.1 L IS USM lens; 1/2500 second at f/7.1; ISO 4000 Behind the Shot: As I sat on my back deck testing my new lens, a burst of yellow caught my eye. It was a Northern Flicker, a bird I’d never previously seen in my backyard. It flew over our Adirondack chairs, the bonfire pit, and the vegetable gardens, finally perching on a post on the fence. I belly-crawled to the edge of my deck, lens stuck between the balusters, and captured the bird in all its glory. Reviewing the image later, which captures it preening, filled me with a sense of accomplishment. Seeing this stunning bird in my own backyard reminded me that we don’t have to go far to see beauty right in front of us. 

84. Sandhill Crane by Joan Robins 

Category: AmateurLocation: Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge Complex, California Camera: OM SYSTEM OM-1 with an OM SYSTEM M. Zuiko 150-400mm f/4.5 TC 1.25 IS PRO lens at 500mm; 1/1250 second at f/5.6; ISO 6400 Behind the Shot: Sandhill Cranes are magical to me. I greet them every fall as they flock to flooded rice fields at Llano Seco, a wildlife area near Chico, California. As fields start to fill, they often fly out at dawn, so I go before sunrise, set up my tripod, and wait for the strangely majestic forms to become visible. On this day, the clouds turned from pink to orange to yellow as the morning progressed. I held my breath and shot the collection of cranes in front of me. I worried that my ISO was through the roof, but when I reviewed my photos, I knew this was the one. And I, at 86, alone out here in the dawn light, had experienced a moment to remember the rest of my life. 

85. Scarlet Macaw by Sunil Gopalan 

Category: AmateurLocation: Napo, Ecuador Camera: Canon EOS R3 with a Canon EF 600mm f/4L IS II USM lens; 1/6 second at f/16; ISO 640 Behind the Shot: I spent several hours at a clay lick in the Ecuadorian Amazon’s Yasuni National Park. The licks are important resources for parrots and macaws, birds that consume toxic nuts neutralized by the clay’s minerals. It took a long time for the site to quiet down so that these Scarlet Macaws felt comfortable enough to come to the water. And as they tend to, they departed in a hurry. I chose to use a long exposure to capture the departure. Some of the birds stayed still long enough to be identifiable in the image. The rest created this colorful canvas. 

86. Sharp-tailed Grouse by Michael Sporer

Category: AmateurLocation: Cherry County, Nebraska Camera: Nikon D7500 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 200-500mm f/5.6E ED VR lens; 1/1000 second at f/5.6; ISO 1800 Behind the Shot: After moving to Nebraska, my wife and I were eager to see the unique birds found on the Great Plains. Following some research, we booked time in the Sharp-tailed Grouse blind at Valentine National Wildlife Refuge. We heard the birds rattling their tails and calling well before we could see them. As the sun broke over the horizon, we saw the male grouse engaged in their courtship rituals, dancing on the lek like little airplanes and competing for the females’ attention. The males would square up with each other, like these two who stared at each other intently. We could not stop talking about the Sharp-tailed Grouse for the rest of the day and planned another trip to the blind for the next year. 

87. Brown Pelican and Peregrine Falcon by Alphonsus Deodatus 

Category: AmateurLocation: San Diego, California  Camera: Nikon Z9 with a Nikon NIKKOR Z 600mm f/4 TC VR S lens and built-in 1.4x Teleconverter, 1/5000 second at f/8; ISO 1250 Behind the Shot: A pair of Peregrine Falcons made their nest on a cliffside by Torrey Pines State Beach. Whenever an unsuspecting bird flew past, the territorial falcons would chase it off, no matter its size. Many photographers stood on the beach every day so they could capture a photo. During the week I spent there, after dozens of failed attempts to keep both birds in frame, I finally got this shot. The pelican appears panicked, its gular sac filled with air, while a falcon’s talons extend toward the pelican’s body.  

88. Western Grebe by Krisztina Scheeff 

Category: ProfessionalLocation: Escondido, California Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II with a Canon EF 400mm f/4 DO IS II USM lens and a Canon 1.4x EF Extender; 1/1600 second at f/8; ISO 500 Behind the Shot: Grebes are amazing parents, as this Western Grebe mom demonstrates, carrying her three chicks who just spotted their dad with a fish. Once grebe chicks are born, they quickly climb onto the back of one of their parents, who will take equal turns carrying them for the next month. The chicks make themselves at home here, sleeping, eating, yawning, sleeping more, and just being very cute. When they spot a fish, the competition is on to see which one can get to it faster. This shot was taken from a boat, where I like to sit quietly and observe the grebes as they go about their daily life, taking care not to bother them.  

89. Snow Goose by Yoshiki Nakamura 

Category: AmateurLocation: Mount Vernon, Washington Camera: Nikon D5 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 600mm F/4E FL ED VR lens; 1/25 second at f/25; ISO 50 Behind the Shot: A huge number of Snow Geese migrate from Siberia to the Skagit Valley area between mid-October and the beginning of April. It is especially spectacular when they take off together, forming dynamic and beautiful patterns, and I always use a slow shutter speed to try to capture the motion. In this case, some parts of the flock were synchronized, while others flew at different speeds and in other directions. The flock looks like it’s melting, which was exactly what I wanted to capture. 

90. Short-eared Owl by Rebecca DePorte 

Category: AmateurLocation: Flemington, New Jersey Camera: Nikon Z9 with a Nikon NIKKOR Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S lens; 1/2000 second at f/8; ISO 4000 Behind the Shot: The highlight of my winter is visiting the Short-eared Owls who come to stay in nearby grasslands. I watch them perch in trees or hunt for voles from atop stalks of dried mullein. When one lands on a mullein stalk with wings outstretched, it looks like an angel. I keep my distance, using a long lens to capture the activity without disrupting the owls. In previous years, I was often alone when I’ve visited. This year, cars overflowed from the tiny parking lot. Some new photographers pursued the owls, chasing them out of the field. As more people get interested in wildlife photography, I hope they respect animals’ habitats and routines to ensure their behavior does not have an impact. 

91. Three-wattled Bellbird by Nancy Elwood 

Category: ProfessionalLocation: San Ramon, Costa Rica Camera: Nikon Z9 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR lens and Nikon AF-S Teleconverter TC-14E III; 1/3200 second at f/9; ISO 4000 Behind the Shot: My guide took us to a place where his friend saw Three-wattled Bellbirds trying to attract a female. They were on a hill overlooking a valley making their signature call, which is one of the loudest of any bird and has been recorded as high as 125 decibels. I set up my tripod and selected ​​“pre-capture” on my camera to take 30 frames in one second. My guide called out when the male was returning to this perch. I pressed the shutter all the way down, with the camera focused on the perch, and got a few good frames of the action. 

92. Snow Goose and Ross’s Goose by Douglas Croft 

Category: AmateurLocation: Merced, California Camera: Nikon D500 with a T Tamron SP 150-600mm f/5-6.3 Di VC USD G2 lens; 1/1600 second at f/11; ISO 400 Behind the Shot: California’s Central Valley is one of the main wintering stops along the Pacific Flyway. Each year, millions of ducks, geese, and wading birds spend the winter months in the valley’s fields and ponds and at several wildlife refuges created for them. The sheer numbers can be mind-boggling, and when thousands of geese take to the air at once, the sound of thundering wings and honking is as awe-inspiring as the sight! I’m fortunate to live close enough to visit some of the refuges each winter—and they never disappoint. On this day, thousands of Snow Geese and Ross’s Geese settled on Merced National Wildlife Refuge’s many ponds. An eagle flew over the flock, startling most of the geese into the air as I pressed the shutter. The birds nearest to me sat calmly, while the ones in the distance became a thick cloud. 

93. Spruce Grouse by John Dickson 

Category: AmateurLocation: Paradise, Michigan Camera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon 500mm f/4L IS II USM lens; 1/400 second at f/4; ISO 3200 Behind the Shot: The small village of Paradise, in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, serves as gateway to Whitefish Point, the state’s number-one bird migration hotspot. Less known is a small population of Spruce Grouse in the nearby forests. After several failed attempts and many hours invested in trying to find these birds, I encountered a single male walking across a forest road as the sun set. I thought I’d lost my chance when he disappeared into the bog, but he then flew into a tree and began walking along a branch, displaying his tail feathers. Since there was no female nearby and it was long after breeding season, perhaps he was trying to impress me. He certainly did. 

94. Willow Ptarmigan by April Stampe 

Category: AmateurLocation: Churchill, Manitoba, Canada Camera: Sony a7R III with a Sony FE 200-600mm f/5.6-6.3 G OSS lens; 1/3200 second and f/6.3; ISO 1250 Behind the Shot: We spent the morning looking for polar bears on the Hudson Bay coast, but the blustery, snowy conditions made spotting anything a struggle. We decided to take a drive deeper into the boreal forest in an area more sheltered from the winds. All of us had our eyes peeled for wildlife. Suddenly, some very welcome white blobs appeared in the middle of the forest road. Ptarmigan! A whole flock of them. They were focused on foraging through the freshly fallen snow, allowing us to exit the car to get into position. As we lay on the ground photographing these wonderful birds, the wind gusts created an amazing snow globe-like effect and helped portray the environment these birds survive in. 

95. King Penguin by Syler Peralta-Ramos 

Category: AmateurLocation: South Georgia Island, British Overseas Territory of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands Camera: Canon 5DS R with a Canon EF 24-70 f/2.8 II lens; 1/400 second at f/18; ISO 800 Behind the Shot: Before I set eyes on the South Georgia coast penguin colony, I could hear the roar of more than 500,000 birds echoing across the bay. When we reached land, we hiked to the top of a moraine. Only there could we grasp the colony’s scale. Katabatic wind gusts from the mountains created stunning light as they pushed the clouds. I struggled to stay upright and hold tight to my camera as hurricane-force gales swept the landscape, but the penguins did not even wobble. When two adults came into the frame, I composed the image to tell the colony’s story: penguins watching over thousands of chicks while many adults fished at sea—and scavenging skuas patrolling the colony for chicks whose parents might not return. 

96. Cinnamon Teal by Ashrith Kandula

Category: AmateurLocation: Lake Titicaca, Puno, Peru Camera: Canon EOS 7D Mark II with a EF100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM lens; 1/640 second at f/5.6; ISO 100 Behind the Shot: The bustling city of Puno, Peru, offers ample opportunities for exploration and photography. One morning, I wandered by the lakeshore and discovered a dock full of colorful, swan-shaped pedal boats. All sorts of waterfowl swam around the dock, unbothered by my presence. The boats cast a mesmerizing tapestry of color on the water’s surface, the reds, yellows, and purples transforming it into a silky rainbow. I knew that if one of the brick-red Cinnamon Teal drakes swam by with the boats in the background, I could capture a frame exploding with color. And after an hour waiting for the birds to move to the perfect spot, I created just that. This scene captures the essence of Peru’s allure—a harmonious blend of rich biodiversity and joyful cultural spirit. 

97. Western Gull by Kevin Lohman 

Category: ProfessionalLocation: Santa Cruz, California Camera: Nikon Z9 with a Nikon NIKKOR Z 400mm f/2.8 TC VR S lens and 1.4x teleconverter; 1/2000 second at f/7.1; ISO 500 Behind the Shot: I was visiting Natural Bridges State Beach late one morning when I saw several gulls nesting on a cliff. A handful of chicks were standing around, calling to their parents for food. Suddenly, an adult gull swooped in and attacked a small chick by stepping on its neck. The gulls were high up, so to get this image, I ended up handholding a long lens with a couple of teleconverters. It was a challenge keeping the two birds in the frame, and the late morning sun made it difficult to capture the detail in the white feathers. Soon after, one of the chick’s parents flew in and chased off the aggressive intruder. 

98. White-tailed Kite by Parham Pourahmad 

Category: YouthLocation: Milpitas, California Camera: Nikon D3500 with a Sigma 150-600mm f/5-6.3 DG OS HSM Contemporary lens; 1/1600 second at f/6.3; ISO 560 Behind the Shot: White-tailed Kites perform one of the coolest behaviors I have ever seen. The male hunts, and when he comes back, the female takes the prey from him in a mid-air exchange. On this occasion at Ed R. Levin County Park, I had unfortunately just missed a mating sequence, but then the male went out to hunt. As he returned, I positioned myself among multiple other photographers. With the golden light perfectly illuminating them, the female kite flew up, and I took this shot the moment before the two kites connected mid-air. This is still one of my favorite pictures ever. I hope the scene of the two birds soaring in the sky together conveys a sense of awe. 

99. Common Murre by Ian Thomasgard 

Category: Amateur Location: Látrabjarg, Iceland Camera: Canon EOS R with a Canon RF 100-500mm F4.5-7.1 L IS USM lens and a PolarPro UV filter; 1/1000 second at f/5; ISO 1000 Behind the Shot: I traveled to Iceland with my best friend for my birthday, intent on finding and photographing puffins. We drove the Ring Road and ended at the farthest northwest point of the country: the cliffs of Látrabjarg. After hiking a couple of miles up the cliff edges, we didn’t find any puffins. But when I looked down, another sight came into view: a group of Common Murres. As this beautiful bird peeked out beneath me, I dangled off the side of the cliff to capture it. The rain, the cold, and the disappointment turned into one of the best moments of my life, looking out at the Atlantic Ocean and the multitude of birds below. 

100. Flightless Cormorant by Muhammad Arif 

Category: AmateurLocation: Galápagos Islands, Ecuador Camera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon EF 500mm f/4L IS II lens; 1/8000 second at f/4; ISO 320 Behind the Shot: It was late in the day when I boarded an inflatable boat to approach the small rock formations near Isabela Island. With rough waters and low light, photography proved challenging. I noticed this single Flightless Cormorant, its wings outstretched, trying to catch the last rays of sun to dry them. The sun was getting low on the horizon, and I immediately knew the image I wanted to capture. I asked the boat’s helmsman to steer closer to the cormorant. I adjusted the settings, choosing a high shutter speed to freeze the motion of the unsteady camera and took a series of images. This was one of the few that fit what I had imagined.

 

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