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2019 Bird Portrait Contest finalists

In the last few months of 2019, BirdWatching received more than 1,000 submissions to our Bird Portrait Contest from hundreds of photographers. The contest drew an exceptional selection of photos, making the judges’ job quite difficult, and now we’re happy to present the 12 finalist images in this slideshow.


Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Photographer: Kurt J. Huebner

Location and date: Mukwonago, Wisconsin, May 13, 2016

Description: Bird migration is in full swing in Wisconsin in May. I like to observe and image the orioles, buntings, tanagers, grosbeaks, hummingbirds, and other birds that arrive or pass through my backyard. To attract them, I have 10 feeders that I maintain year-round. I have added a few natural perches to the feeders and try to avoid including the feeders in my images. For the more common birds, I like to take portrait shots if possible. The backlit female Northern Cardinal is such a portrait. My property faces south, so getting backlit images is fairly easy.

My Canon 7D Mk II was mounted with a Canon 500mm f4 and a 1.4 TC and was set up on a sturdy RRS TVC 33 tripod with a Wimberley WH-200 Gimbal Head. I removed the storm window from my dining-room window and used the opening like I was positioned in a blind. As long as the inside and outside temperatures are fairly equal, this works quite well. I then watched as a constant parade of birds ensued. I looked for interesting bird poses and affecting weather conditions. In the case of this female Northern Cardinal, it was obviously the wind. I shot a series of images and the entered image is by far the most unique and expressive.

Unfortunately, this pretty lady did not land on one of the prepared perches, but on the back of a patio chair. She was a fair distance away so the image required cropping, even with the 500mm lens and the 1.4X teleconverter, to attain the final image.

Gear and settings: Canon 7D Mk II; Canon 500mm f4 IS; Canon Extender 1.4X III; Manual f/5.6 @ 1/200, ISO 400, Spot metering AWB; Central focus point AI Servo.

UPDATE: View the first-place, second-place, and third-place winners!

View the Bird Portrait Contest honorable mention images

View the winners of our 2019 BirdWatching Photography Awards

Enter the 2020 BirdWatching Photography Awards

Enter Outdoor Photographer’s 2020 The American Landscape Photo Contest

Originally Published

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Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and You can reach him at

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