A booby with a downy crown. A fuzzy pile of ducklings. Anhinga chicks slurping down meals. These photographs from the 2023 Audubon Images Awards spotlight younger birds at their most lovable and awkward, in addition to personal moments between dad and mom and their offspring.
These scenes additionally depict essential intervals when birds are significantly inclined to disturbance and predation. That’s why the pictures featured right here, like all submissions to the competition, are rigorously reviewed for ethical rigor. These photographers used telephoto lenses for dramatic close-up portraits, took care to keep away from approaching nests, and watched out for any indicators that the birds had been underneath stress. In different phrases, they put the birds’ well-being forward of capturing the right picture.
There’s loads extra to get pleasure from from this yr’s awards, together with our favourite videos, pictures of female birds, and pictures of birds with the native plants they rely on. And don’t neglect to take a look at the beautiful overall winners and the top 100 photographs.
In the meantime, scroll on to get pleasure from some lovable chick pics and study a factor or two about avian breeding habits. Hungry for extra? Peruse our favourite child hen pictures from the 2021 and 2022 Audubon Images Awards.
Barred Owl (above)
Photographer Brandon Finnorn spent 4 years observing a Barred Owl pair nesting within the unused chimney of a historic home at Fairview-Riverside State Park in Louisiana. Ultimately he captured this picture of two owlets peering out at him from beneath the chimney’s steel cap. Younger Barred Owls enterprise from the nest at roughly 4 to six weeks, however they nonetheless depend on dad and mom for meals and gained’t begin flying till they’re almost 10 weeks outdated. Till then, they stroll throughout branches and may climb bushes—or chimneys—by greedy bark or different surfaces with their payments and talons whereas pumping their wings for steadiness.
Who can resist a puddle of downy ducklings? Photographer Nick Teague certainly couldn’t—he waded by means of deep mud and pressed himself to the bottom to seize this group of 4 younger Mallards sleeping. One of many world’s most plentiful geese, Mallards inhabit a variety of habitats in North America, from wetlands and ponds to metropolis parks and backyards. Like many duck species, mated males typically pursue different females and pressure copulations, a habits that yields hybrids with American Black Duck, Mottled Duck, Gadwall, and different duck species.
A well-recognized species alongside the Pacific Coast, the Western Gull’s breeding vary stretches from Washington State to Mexico’s Baja California Peninsula, and overlaps with Glaucous-winged Gulls within the Pacific Northwest, the place the 2 hybridize extensively. Western Gulls nest in fewer than 200 colonies, and 30 p.c of the whole inhabitants breeds on Southeast Farallon Island, California. Farther south, photographer Camille Steward snapped this floofy younger gull’s portrait at La Jolla Cove, California. It’s among the many websites the place opportunistic Western Gulls nest close to sea lion colonies to scavenge sea lion pups that do not survive.
A jet-black grownup American Crow makes use of its invoice to preen the quick feathers on the brow of a juvenile, whose grey eyes and reddish mouth will darken over the approaching weeks. Widespread throughout the continent, American Crows are extremely adaptable however choose to nest in a fork among the many high third of an evergreen tree. Females lay as much as 9 eggs and shoulder a lot of the incubation duties. However as with different corvids, each dad and mom feed the younger, with assist from earlier years’ siblings. Photographer Tom Reese captured this tender second in his Seattle yard, emphasizing that cautious consideration can yield superb avian encounters even in essentially the most acquainted locations.
Speak about willpower: On a Lengthy Island, New York, seaside, this hungry younger Black Skimmer tightly grips a fish in its invoice, at the same time as a a lot stronger grownup begins to hold the chick away. The grownup might be not the chick’s mum or dad, which might have landed to current the fish to its unrelenting teen. When skimmer chicks hatch, the decrease and higher mandibles are the identical size, to allow them to simply eat the meals delivered by their dad and mom. By the point fledglings begin flying a month later, the decrease mandible extends a half-inch past the higher—a invoice form extra like an grownup’s, and preferrred for skimming the water’s floor to catch prey.
Clapper Rails are extraordinarily reclusive and normally recognized solely by their distinctive clattering cackle, so this fledgling stunned photographer Michael Riccio when it emerged from the marsh grass by a New Jersey tidal creek. Males construct elevated nests—with ramps to permit simple entry—in clumps of vegetation to keep away from tidal flooding, however even eggs submerged throughout extraordinarily excessive tides can nonetheless hatch. Clapper Rails brood their younger and carry them on their backs when crossing deeper water. As soon as the chicks attain one week outdated, the grownup female and male separate, every taking duty for half of the nestlings. Clapper Rails fledge after 6 weeks however can’t fly till 10 weeks, after they look almost indistinguishable from adults.
A tiny Pygmy Nuthatch grips the deeply grooved bark of a tree trunk, resting for a short second after feeding its chick. Nonetheless hungry, the nestling begs for extra meals, its yellow mouth gaping vast. Photographer Ashrith Kandula captured this duo at Level Lobos State Pure Reserve in California, utilizing the grownup’s squeaky, rubber-ducky calls to find the teensy nest cavity excessive in a pine tree. Although adults generally eat pine nuts—their namesake meals supply—they largely feed chicks protein-rich bugs. Pygmy Nuthatches are among the many handful of North American songbirds that breed cooperatively: A number of adults—normally male offspring from earlier years—assist the dad and mom feed younger and defend the nest.
Discovered on Caribbean islands and all through Central and South America, Limpkins in North America are most reliably seen in Florida, the place photographer Ira Ochomma snapped this particular second at Myakka River State Park. Standing ankle deep in Myakka Lake, this grownup pries tender meat from an apple snail—the species’s virtually unique prey—as a downy chick opens its invoice, able to obtain the small morsel. Limpkins forage in the course of the day with a specialised invoice that continues to be barely opened on the tip, performing like tweezers for straightforward snail removing. Chicks begin extracting snails round 5 weeks outdated, however nonetheless beg for meals from dad and mom for a number of extra weeks.
The raucous cries of chicks alerted photographer Scott Dere to a nest website at Inexperienced Cay Wetlands in Florida, the place he discovered an Anhinga just lately returned from foraging. Right here the tawny, downy necks of two chicks entwine as they jostle for meals from their mum or dad. Each nestlings have their heads contained in the grownup male’s mouth, however one chick’s engorged neck signifies it outcompeted its sibling. Grownup feminine Anhingas have a tan head and neck, whereas males like this one have a completely black physique apart from silvery-white streaks on the again and wings. Males primarily construct the nest and feed females throughout incubation, however each dad and mom forage and regurgitate fish and invertebrates to nestlings.
Baltimore Oriole chicks go away the nest two weeks after hatching, however they proceed to beg for meals from their dad and mom. They’re significantly insatiable in the course of the week after they fledge, very like the children right here showing to compete for consideration from an grownup male with a fiery orange breast. Although males attempt to breed of their first season, they often aren’t profitable and gained’t develop their attribute brilliant feathers till their second yr. Females construct woven, hanging-orb nests in older bushes—largely American elm earlier than Dutch elm illness, now primarily American sycamore and cottonwood—and incubate eggs, although each dad and mom feed protein-rich bugs to the younger.
Peeping out from a nest woven from lifeless marsh grasses, a downy black-and-orange American Coot chick gazes up at its mum or dad. Coots breed all through North America, even into the Northwest Territories, and may rear two broods a yr in hotter climes. Most nests comprise 6 to 11 eggs, however females typically lay eggs within the nests of different coots, geese, or gulls. Younger coots can swim quickly after hatching—like this teen, nonetheless damp from a current foray—however dad and mom feed them small bits of vegetation, bugs, and algae, and brood them in a nest-like platform at evening.
A curious younger Blue-footed Booby stares straight at photographer Sophia Irvin, who snapped this portrait utilizing a telephoto lens on Isla Isabela within the Galápagos Islands. Females lay one to 3 eggs in nest scrapes on naked floor and chicks hatch a number of days aside. Chicks are fully bare after they hatch, however quickly sport a coating of fuzzy white down earlier than they develop the extra mature brown plumage. Don’t let this teen’s innocent-looking face idiot you: In periods of meals shortage, an older, bigger Blue-footed Booby chick typically kills a youthful sibling by pecking it and pushing it out of the nest.
Widespread throughout North America, Canada Geese breed in all however the southernmost United States. Eleven subspecies of Canada Goose had been as soon as acknowledged, however in 2004 the American Ornithologists’ Union grouped the smallest 4 right into a separate species: Cackling Goose. Canada Geese apply assortative mating, with each sexes selecting mates which are comparable in dimension. The feminine selects the nest website, constructing an elevated bowl of dry grasses and mosses near water, the place she will lay as much as 11 eggs. Inside two days of hatching, younger geese go away the nest and start foraging for their very own meals, together with seeds, grasses, and different bits of vegetation, as with the curious gosling right here.
Nice Blue Heron
A standard wading hen throughout most of North America, the Nice Blue Heron seems particularly majestic throughout breeding season. Right here an grownup exhibits off its elegantly splayed black crown feathers and grey, fanned-out decorative chest plumes. The hen stands in a big, twiggy nest over two still-downy chicks, whose coloration seems remarkably just like their mum or dad’s. One nestling stretches its neck upward, making an attempt to swallow a southern watersnake that the mum or dad gently provides from its invoice. After the chicks made a number of unsuccessful makes an attempt to swallow the snake, photographer Cami Marculescu watched the mum or dad eat it after which feed smaller, regurgitated chunks to the hungry nestlings.
Photographer Lyssa Koo flattened herself to the bottom to seize this fetching picture: A fuzzy orange Sandhill Crane chick struts throughout a grassy discipline with sticky inexperienced seeds embedded in its downy white chest and face. Younger cranes, referred to as colts due to their lengthy legs, can go away the nest inside hours of hatching, however depend on dad and mom for meals till they study to forage for bugs, aquatic vegetation, and even snails and lizards. They keep on with adults for 9 to 10 months, migrating as a household earlier than separating the next spring.