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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.


Red Crossbill

Red Crossbill

Photographer: Ken Archer

Date: Twin Falls, Idaho, May 20, 2013

Description: During the spring of 2013, a flock of Red Crossbills had discovered our bird feeder in the backyard, and for three or four weeks the flock would visit the feeder a couple times a day. I usually just enjoy watching the birds in my backyard and seldom photograph them, but the rare visit by these animated little beauties convinced me to spend some quality time photographing them.

I set up my camera with a 600mm lens near a feeder that is purposely arranged near an old vine maple tree. The group of crossbills would intermingle and patiently wait among the lower branches of this beautiful tree for their turn at the feeder. A couple of the birds weren’t so patient though and would often flip upside down on their perch, seemingly to get a head start toward the feeder when a spot opened up. I could have easily moved in closer and used a smaller lens to photograph the birds, but I believe that using the longer lens gave me the distance to allow the birds to become more comfortable with my presence and afford me some nice opportunities to photograph their natural behavior and interactions. And capture a few unusual portraits, like this one.

Gear and settings: Canon 1D Mark IV camera body, a Canon 600mm f4 lens mounted on a Gitzo Tripod with a BH-55 ball head. I shoot in manual mode with a spot meter 95% of the time, and for this photo my settings were 1/200; f 7.1; ISO 1250

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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