Mating, murder, and parenting: The complex lives of birds on display in 2024 Audubon Photography Awards

A decapitated squirrel hangs lifeless in the talons of a barred owl. A red-necked grebe chick stretches its neck to gobble up a meal of fish delivered fresh from its parent. Hundreds of grackles perch on power lines as the sun sets on Texas.

The winners of the 2024 Audubon Photography Awards document the fascinating behaviors of birds in stunning detail. This year’s winners were selected from 8,500 submissions and awarded across nine categories, including Youth, Amateur, Plants For Birds, and the newly created Birds in Landscapes.

Photographer Mathew Malwitz earned the Grand Winner prize for his photo (seen below) of quarreling blackburnian warblers taken at Promised Land State Park in Greentown, Pennsylvania.

“While out for a walk, I had been following the song of a Magnolia Warbler along a trail when two quarreling Blackburnian Warblers dropped from the trees above,” Malwitz said. “They landed a few feet in front of me, prompting me to carefully step back. They remained motionless, and I worried that the fall had injured them, but a moment later they began battling again. Once I realized the pair were too busy to notice me, I slowly dropped to the ground at their level to get a better look into their world. I adjusted my settings for action and snapped as they fought. The scene lasted a few minutes before they let each other go and returned to the canopy.”

Two Blackburnian Warblers face each other in profile, their gray and white wings outstretched behind them. Their yellow heads and orange necks stand out against a blurred gray background, and their bills and feet are entangled.
Two blackburnian warblers square off, their bills and feet entangled. Photo: Mathew Malwitz/Audubon Photography Awards/2024 Grand Prize Winner
A Forster’s Tern is in the air, its head turned almost 180 degrees so that its bill is pointing almost straight up, and its tail is twisted. The bird’s outstretched wings give the impression the bird is floating upside down. Water droplets appear in a stream from the bird’s bill and also below it.
A forster’s tern twists its head in the air. Photo: Kevin Lohman/Audubon Photography Awards/2024 Professional Honorable Mention
An American Kestrel stands on a post in profile, and a male kestrel is on her back with his wings stretched behind him. The birds are both in profile facing the left of the frame, the male above appearing to be an extension of the female below.
Two American kestrels, a male on top and a female on the bottom, seemingly merge into one bird. Photo: Parham Pourahmad/Audubon Photography Awards/2024 Youth Winner 
Two adult Red-necked Grebes face each other in the water. The entire grebe’s body on the right is visible, and two black and white-headed chicks sit on its back. One is leaning to receive a small fish from the bill of the parent.
A red-necked grebe feeds its chick a small fish. Photo: Edwin ​​Liu/Audubon Photography Awards/2024 Youth Honorable Mention
Silhouetted grackles perch on power lines that bisect the image, with their tails nearly all pointing in the same direction. The sky is purple and pink. Through the whole of the photo are blurry figures of grackles flying through the air.
Grackles perch on power lines in Austin, Texas. Photo: Tristan Vratil/Audubon Photography Awards/2024 Amateur Winner
A female Wild Turkey stands in profile, and her head is held high and wings are fanned out behind her. She stands between railroad tracks littered with leaves that extend into the distance.
A female wild turkey lifts her head and wings on railroad tracks in Roseville, Minnesota. Photo: Travis Potter/Audubon Photography Awards/2024 Female Bird Prize Winner 
A Black-capped Chickadee clings to a single beige hook-shaped stem filled with seeds. The bird’s black legs appear to be spread at a 90-degree angle to hold the stem. The bird’s black bill is full of seeds.
A black-capped chickadee fills its bill with cattail seeds. Image: Linda Scher/Audubon Photography Awards/2024 Plants For Birds Winner 

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