Striking Photo of a Diving Cormorant Wins the 2020 Audubon Photography Awards

Earlier today, the National Audubon Society announced the winners of the 2020 Audubon Photography Awards. Known the for highlighting some of the most spectacular bird photography in the world, this year’s contest winners did not disappoint.

This year’s winners were selected from over 6,000 submissions that came in from photographers across all 50 United States, Washington DC, and all seven Canadian Provinces. The goal of the awards is to highlight images that “evoke the ingenuity, resilience, and beauty of birds small and large, terrestrial and aquatic.” We’ll let you decide if they succeeded.

The Grand Prize for 2020 went to New York-based photographer Joanna Lentini, who captured this stunning photo of a double-crested cormorant diving for food in Los Islotes, Mexico.

Photo © Joanna Lentini | 2020 Audubon Photography Awards

Photographer: Joanna Lentini

Location: Los Islotes, Mexico

Story Behind the Shot: I’ve spent many hours underwater at this California sea lion rookery in the Bay of La Paz, but I had never before encountered diving cormorants there. Shifting my focus from the playful sea lions, I watched in awe as the cormorants plunged beak-first into the sea to snap at the sardines swimming by. Although I spent a long time admiring these birds, I didn’t see a single one catch a fish. Adding insult to injury, curious sea lion pups would zip by the hunting birds and nip at them from behind. (Credit:

To see the rest of the winners all four categories—Professional, Amateur, Youth and Plants for Birds—as well as the winner of the special Fisher Prize that goes to a photo that “exemplifies a blend of originality and technical expertise,” scroll down and check them out. And if you want to learn more about the “bird lore” behind each of the creatures pictured or see a list of the gear used to capture each shot, head over to

Professional Winner

Photo © Sue Dougherty | 2020 Audubon Photography Awards

Photographer: Sue Dougherty

Location: Genovesa Island, Ecuador

Story Behind the Shot: The sun was setting behind a frigatebird breeding colony in the Galápagos. The birds were very active and stunningly close, and the experience was all the more special because I was with great friends who were equally mesmerized by the scene. We got on the sand, lying on our bellies and handholding our cameras, composing silhouettes and starbursts on birds’ wingtips. I noticed this male, with his throat pouch lit up by the sun, and zoomed in to capture his portrait. (Credit:

Amateur Winner

Photo © Gail Bisson | 2020 Audubon Photography Awards

Photographer: Gail Bisson

Location: Tárcoles River, Costa Rica

Story Behind the Shot: After a torrential rainstorm, I went out on a late-afternoon boat trip on the Tárcoles River. It was still raining when we left the boat ramp, but once the sky finally cleared, we spotted this Bare-throated Tiger-Heron walking along the river. As the boat drifted by, the bird leaned over the bank to watch us. I raised my camera and quickly switched to a portrait orientation to capture the beautiful post-storm sky behind it. (Credit:

Youth Winner

Photo © Vayun Tiwari | 2020 Audubon Photography Awards

Photographer: Vayun Tiwari

Location: New River, Orange Walk District, Belize

Story Behind the Shot: On a boat ride on the New River, I noticed a few Northern Jacanas on a patch of water lilies and asked the captain to stop. I hoped our vessel wouldn’t scare away the birds. I couldn’t believe my luck when one walked closer and closer to us. The boat was rocking, but when the bird stopped for a ­moment to peer into a water lily, I was able to set up and get this special shot. (Credit:

Fisher Prize Winner

Photo © Marlee Fuller-Morris | 2020 Audubon Photography Awards

Photographer: Marlee Fuller-Morris

Location: Yosemite National Park, California, USA

Story Behind the Shot: I followed a little-known trail in Yosemite to the top of a small waterfall and sat at the edge of the pool. A moment later, a dipper flew in. The river was ­moving quickly, but it wasn’t too deep. So instead of diving, the bird stuck its head underwater in search of prey. I thought the spectacular splash would make an awesome photo. The bird kept getting closer and closer as I sat snapping ­hundreds of shots of that splash. I will treasure that afternoon as one of my favorite moments in Yosemite! (Credit:

Plants for Birds Prize Winner

Photo © Travis Bonovsky | 2020 Audubon Photography Awards

Photographer: Travis Bonovsky

Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA

Story Behind the Shot: Through frequent visits to North Mississippi Regional Park, an area restored with native plants, I became familiar with the cup plant and learned that its leaves can hold rainwater, as the name suggests. I read that birds and other wildlife like to drink from these plants, so I always keep an eye out for bird activity when I pass by them. Finally one late July day I was lucky enough to witness a female American Goldfinch plunge her head into a plant. (Credit:


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