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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.


Whooping Crane

Whooping Crane

Photographer: Cissy Beasley

Location and date: Aransas National Wildlife Refuge, Texas, January 19, 2015

On a chilly January morning, we set out by boat to find and photograph precious, endangered Whooping Cranes, a species which was rendered nearly extinct in the early 1900s. Fortunately, the Whooping Crane population is slowly making a comeback, due to a concerted effort to preserve the species and its habitat.

One colony of Whooping Cranes makes an annual trek from Canada to the middle Texas coast, an arduous journey of over 2,000 miles. During their winters here, the cranes consume blue crabs, as well as reptiles, small mammals, berries, roots, and other myriad foodstuffs.

The morning of my photograph, the sun was just peeking over the horizon, illuminating the calm water with golden light. A young Whooping Crane, or "colt," had stepped away from its parent and, with its back to me, turned to make sure mother or father was still nearby. Every colt is an important harbinger of promise and hope that the Whooping Crane species will continue to expand and flourish.

Gear and settings: Nikon D810; Nikon 300mm f/2.8 with 1.4x teleconverter; Manfrotto tripod and Jobu Jr. gimbal head.

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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