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Birds of a Feather

This assignment ran from Sep 1 to Sep 22, 2016.

Hello again, Your Shot community! I have missed you all so much, so I figured I would curate another assignment just to spend time with you again.

This assignment will celebrate the winged dinosaur descendants that lay claim to the intangible blue that stretches above us, horizon to horizon. In particular, I am looking for the inimitable birds of Colombia. They include 1,903 species, 197 of which are migratory and occupy a wide distribution range, including Central and North America. To put this number in perspective, Colombia hosts one-fifth of the bird species known on Earth on just 0.8 percent of its land surface.

Colombia is presently undergoing a lot of transformation, from the recent signing of the peace treaty to shifting its economic focus toward ecotourism this year. But the country’s birds have been trafficked as pets, and nothing is more heartbreaking than seeing a wild bird that is inherently programmed to fly vast distances be deprived of the very essence of its being—its freedom to take flight. So last February, I decided to design a visual campaign that would raise awareness about the plight of Colombian birds so the local communities can take pride in preserving them for future generations. Your contribution to this assignment will help me refine my campaign concept, and the photographers of the best submissions will be contacted for a chance to participate in a global outreach effort to protect the wild birds of Colombia.

REMINDER: It is always important to include as much pertinent information as possible in your caption, BUT it is particularly true for this assignment. Please include the species of bird and where it was photographed in your caption. Thank you!

Curated by:

Asher Jay
National Geographic Explorer and Creative Conservationist
Assignment Status
  • Open

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  • Closed

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  • Published

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Published Oct 3, 2016.
Thank you for your contributions!

One More!

Posted sep 20, 2016

As a big thank you to everyone who has participated thus far, we are allowing one more submission to this challenging assignment! Send in the birds!

Some Guidelines

Posted sep 14, 2016

First of all, I would like to thank everyone for being as enthusiastic about this assignment as others in the past. I wanted to find a way to encourage birding and encourage photographers to lend their lens to capture stunning stills of extremely kinetic subjects. I decided to narrow the focus to Colombia because the birds there need to have their story told. We can, as a community, encourage people to protect the incredible diversity of birds found in these parts in the wild and not to traffic them as pets. To cage a bird is to strip these winged dinosaurs of their very essence: their freedom to fly.

I want to clarify a few things. Yes, I did like several images as Editor Favorites because they were stellar captures. I thought perhaps the images of birds—despite not being endemic to Colombia—were submitted because they were found as pets or in an aviary in Colombia, but when I further investigated the locations from which they were submitted, it became evident that the birds were submitted without any regard to the assignment’s parameters. Some Editor Favorites I tagged were vetoed by bird experts I consulted with, who very insistently informed me that the species captured in those shots were far too different from the species found in Colombia to be considered viable submissions, even on the grounds of parallel or convergent evolution. So really, the assignment comes down to the basic premise that the photographs must reflect Colombia’s bird diversity. The silhouettes submitted by some photographers actually worked for the purposes of this assignment by circumventing the obvious restriction, falling into the realm of reasonable doubt. I understand that many birders are keen on submitting photos, but please check the list of bird species before including an image.

A few more guidelines:

1. You can submit birds that are migratory and thus only found in Colombia some of the time.
2. You can submit macro close-ups of bird feathers that might reference the color palettes of the birds in Colombia.
3. You may photograph birds trafficked/traded as pets but found in Colombia in the wild.
4. You may submit bird species endemic to Colombia but photographed in zoos or aviaries elsewhere.
5. You may submit birds that have evolved in convergence and are the same species as the ones in Colombia but are found in other regions as isolated pockets of the same bird ancestry. They look the same and are very similar, but they have been adapted by selective pressures to be a bit different.
6. You may submit birds that are not endemic to Colombia but exist in Colombia because they have been introduced by accident or been brought there as pets or by zoos. For this to be the case, the image has to be taken in Colombia. Do not submit species that are not found in Colombia. Kindly refer to the bird species list before submitting:
7. Silhouettes of birds that are highly conceptual still need to reference the silhouette and appearance of birds found in Colombia. They cannot be completely without context.

Please make it clear what species the bird is, where the photograph was taken, and how it relates to the birds of Colombia. There is an extraordinary diversity of birds found there, and I would be remiss to not underscore the value of catering to the guidelines of this assignment.

I've uploaded a few photos that I captured in Colombia for your reference:Red Headed Barbet, a Blue Mountain Tanager, and a Crested Quetzal.

Passion & Patience

Posted sep 1, 2016

Birders are cut from a special cloth of patience. They wait for hours, come rain or sunshine, to witness elusive sightings that last but a few meager seconds. Yet in the United States alone, birders encompass a demographic that is already 47 million strong! I want to give these passionate personalities the chance to contribute to an assignment that focuses on their favorite way to pass time: documenting birds.

In February of 2016, Audubon Society in partnership with USAID and Patrimonio Natural invited me to go on the Northern Colombia Birding Trail expedition. This trip opened my eyes and ears up to a whole new world of colors and calls. As soon as I came back from my expedition I wrote these articles, which will give you a deeper understanding of what I witnessed and why this assignment is important to me.

Birding 101: Unidentified Flying Organisms
Bird Bath and Beyond

For reference, please use this bird list that I was given on the expedition: Colombia Birding.

Asher Jay

Asher Jay

National Geographic Explorer and Creative Conservationist
Asher Jay, is saving the world’s threatened wildlife—with creativity. Her cause-driven art, sculpture, design installations, films, and advocacy advertising campaigns bring attention to everything from the blood ivory trade to plastic pollution. Jay’s upcoming projects will tackle biodiversity loss due to wildlife trafficking and climate change. Tackling issue after issue, Jay’s projects have become global sensations. Yet her ultimate goal is to motivate the one person she believes holds the real power to determine nature’s fate. You.