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2020 Bird Portrait Contest first place: Cedar Waxwing

Cedar Waxwing
Cedar Waxwing © Andy Raupp/BirdWatching Bird Portrait Contest

Congratulations to Andy Raupp of Pingree Grove, Illinois, for winning first place in our 2020 Bird Portrait Contest with this incredible photo of a Cedar Waxwing.

Andy took the photo “one cold winter morning in our suburban neighborhood in northern Illinois,” he says. “I was heading out to a local park to go birding when I passed this crabapple tree filled with birds. I was excited to see it was a large flock of Cedar Waxwings feeding in the tree. These birds are one of my favorites, so I was thrilled to spend some time photographing them and capturing this photo!”

Andy’s photo was the top choice of all four of our judges.

“This handsome Cedar Waxwing was captured at a perfect moment to highlight a behavioral activity this is difficult to photograph, with great composition and all of the beautiful color,” comments Eldon Greij, our founding editor and the writer of our “Amazing Birds” column.

The photo shows the waxwing’s “feeding skills by flipping a berry, so it drops into its gullet,” he says. “The yellow belly and terminal tail bar and red feather tips in the wing are colored by carotenoids obtained from the fruit.”

The photo offers a chance to study the waxwing’s unusual plumage, Eldon adds.

“The red waxy extensions of the shafts of inner flight feathers (secondaries) occur on some individuals in various numbers,” he says. “They likely occur in birds older than two years, increase with age, and probably are more abundant in males. These extensions are thought to be social signals that allow older males and females to mate, and they raise more youngsters than younger pairs. Waxwings differ from most other birds in that their plumage is unusually smooth. Their feathers have a solid appearance that gives the plumage a smooth, satiny look.”

Andy took the photo with a Nikon D500 camera and a Sigma 150-600mm contemporary lens.

The photo was one of more than 700 that photographers entered in our contest. Yesterday, we featured it among the dozen finalists. Check the links below for the second- and third-place images as well as our finalists and honorable mentions.

Second place: Elegant Trogon

Third place: Wood Duck

View the contest’s finalists

View the contest’s honorable mentions

Enter your photos in our BirdWatching Photography Awards

View Andy’s photography website

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