2023 Audubon Photography Awards Winners

2023 Audubon Photography Awards Winners


New York, NY—The National Audubon Society announced the winners of the 2023 Audubon Photography Awards. Now in its fourteenth year, the contest features stunning work from professionals, amateurs as well as young people. The photographs highlight the beauty of birds and the joy of capturing them through photographs and videos.

Moreover, the judges awarded eight prizes across five divisions. They chose winning entries and honorable mentions from 2,200 entrants from all 50 states, Washington DC, as well as eight Canadian provinces and territories.

What’s more, for the third year, the organization awarded the Audubon Female Bird and the Audubon Video awards. The Female Bird prize showcases the beauty of female birds. These birds are often overlooked and underappreciated in birding, bird photography as well as science. Furthermore, the Audubon Video prize celebrates the dynamic movement and unique behaviors of birds interacting with their habitats.

In addition, the long-standing Fisher Award recognizes the most creative approach in photographing birds. The work combines technical expertise and an original composition.

Audubon’s climate science report Survival by Degrees reveals that two-thirds of North American birds are threatened by extinction from climate change. They include species featured in this year’s Audubon Photography Awards: the Dunlin, Short-eared Owl and Baltimore Oriole.

To learn more about how climate change will impact birds in your communities, enter your zip code into Audubon’s Birds and Climate Visualizer.

2023 Audubon Photography Awards Winners

The Audubon Society will feature all award winners and honorable mentions in the summer 2023 issue of Audubon magazine. Following are the eight prize-winning photographs along with what camera and lens the photographers used for the winning photo.

Grand Prize, $5,000: Rock Pigeons, © Liron Gertsman
  • Species: Rock Pigeon
  • Location: White Rock, British Columbia, Canada
  • Camera: Canon EOS R5 with a Canon EF 100–400mm f/4.5–5.6L IS II USM: 400mm; 1/1600 second; f/5.6; ISO 2500
Rock Pigeons. © Liron Gertsman/Audubon Photography Awards/2023 Grand Prize Winner

“Purposefully exposing for the brighter parts of the image, I used the shadowy environment to create a studio-like black background for these remarkable iridescent birds,” commented Gertsman.

Professional Award, $2,500: Atlantic Puffin, © Shane Kalyn
  • Species: Atlantic Puffin
  • Location: Westman Islands, Iceland
  • Camera: Nikon D500 with a Nikon 500mm f/4 lens: 500mm; 1/6400 second; f/4; ISO 2000

    Atlantic Puffin. © Shane Kalyn/Audubon Photography Awards/2023 Professional Winner

“It was raining and the sky was dark, creating a moody tone. I knew this moment was special. It was the first Atlantic Puffin I’d seen, let alone been able to photograph,” said Kalyn.

Amateur Award, $2,500: Chinstrap Penguin, © Karen Blackwood
  • Species: Chinstrap Penguin
  • Location: Cierva Cove, Antarctica
  • Camera: Canon EOS R5 with a RF 70–200mm f/2.8 L IS USM: 200mm; 1/4000 second; f/8; ISO 1000

    Chinstrap Penguin. © Karen Blackwood/Audubon Photography Awards/2023 Amateur Winner

“I spotted a Chinstrap Penguin standing alone on a blue iceberg capped with fresh snow. It peered over the edge, and I knew it was going to jump. I adjusted my settings, keeping in mind the pitching boat, moving iceberg and penguin that would soon be in midair. The bird jumped directly in front of me, diving straight into the water. I caught it just before it slipped beneath the waves and got both eyes and its perfect shape,” commented Blackwood.

Plants for Birds Award, $2,500: Verdin and cane cholla, © Linda Scher
  • Photographer: Amateur
  • Species: Verdin
  • Location: Sweetwater Wetlands, Tucson, Arizona
  • Camera: Nikon Z9 with a Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 500mm f/5.6E PF ED VR lens; 1/400 second at f/7.1; ISO 640

    Verdin and cane cholla. © Linda Scher/Audubon Photography Awards/2023 Plants for Birds Winner

“I birded the Sweetwater Wetlands while visiting Tucson and saw Verdins for the first time. At the far end of the site, I found a pair building a nest in a cane cholla. . . . Using long lenses to stay distant, we photographed the busy pair gathering insects and caterpillars for their chicks. I love this image because it captures the Verdin’s high energy, its desert habitat and the protection that cacti offer,” said Scher.

Video Award: $2,500: Short-eared Owl, © Steven Chu
  • Species: Short-eared Owl
  • Location: Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge, Wallkill, New York
  • Camera: Nikon Z9 with Nikon Nikkor Z 800mm f/6.3 VR S lens: 800mm; 1/320 second; f/8; ISO 900

    2023 Audubon-Photography- Awards-Video Award
    Short-eared Owl. © Steven Chu/Audubon Photography Awards/2023 Video Winner

“I’ve spent the past four winters setting out every free moment to document Short-eared Owls. They survey the grasslands for voles close to sunset. However, many times the birds don’t come out at all or are too far away. On this day, at the end of the trail, I heard an owl call. I saw another fly quickly to the first. The birds locked talons and cartwheeled downward, releasing each other just before hitting the ground,” said Chu.

Female Bird Prize, $1,000: Baltimore Oriole, © Sandra M. Rothenberg
  • Category: Amateur
Species: Baltimore Oriole
Location: Warren, Pennsylvania
  • Camera: Sony Alpha 1 with a Sony FE 200–600mm f/5.6–6.3 G OSS: 459mm; 1/1000 second; f/6.3; ISO 1600

    Baltimore Oriole. © Sandra M. Rothenberg/Audubon Photography Awards/2023 Female Prize Winner

“Since I was a child, Baltimore Orioles have nested on our property. I have always loved watching the females: aerial acrobats that collect dried grasses and long gossamer strands of horsehair from my sister’s adjacent farm. . . . I use a tiny blind to observe the birds without disturbing them. This female barely landed to grasp a tangled clump of horsehair and natural hemp and sisal fibers caught on a branch. She was surrounded by a lacy, fluttering, diaphanous veil,” commented Rothenberg.

Fisher Prize, $1,000: Brown Pelican, © Sunil Gopalan
  • Species: Brown Pelican
Location: Galápagos National Park, Ecuador
  • Camera: Canon EOS R3 with a Canon EF 100–400mm f/4.5–5.6L IS II USM: 100mm; 1/200 second; f/4.5; ISO 25,600

    Brown Pelican. © Sunil Gopalan/Audubon Photography Awards/2023 Fisher Prize Winner

“On a cruise in the Galápagos with my family, my kids called for me. The lights of the docked boat had attracted many fish. This, in turn, drew several Galápagos sharks and a Brown Pelican. An interaction of species like that is a photo opportunity. The pelican would jump out of the water when the shark got close, so I hoped to time my shots to get both in the frame. After a couple of hours, I was able to photograph a few interactions. In this image, the shark swims under the bird, creating a ghostly silhouette,” explained Gopalan.

Youth Award, Six days at Audubon’s Hog Island Audubon Camp: Dunlin, © Kieran Barlow
  • Species: Dunlin
  • Location: Barnegat Light, New Jersey
Camera: Nikon D850 with a Tamron SP 150–600mm F/5–6.3 Di VC USD G2: 240mm; 1/3200 second; f/5.6; ISO 560

    Dunlin. © Kieran Barlow/Audubon Photography Awards/2023 Youth Winner

“On a winter trip to New Jersey, my goal was to capture images of Harlequin Ducks. Instead, I became enraptured by a flock of sandpipers feeding on the rocks. They would all fly out of the way when a wave crashed onto shore. So, I hunkered down between boulders and waited. . . . After more than an hour of unsuccessful attempts, I picked out a nearby sandpiper and hoped it would take flight. As a wave crashed, the entire flock took to the air,” said Barlow.

All photos and videos were judged by an expert panel based on technical quality, originality as well as artistic merit. In addition, all adhere to Audubon’s Guide to Ethical Bird Photography and Videography.