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Bonnie Block // 2016 Audubon Photography Awards
Bonnie Block // 2016 Audubon Photography Awards

See Prize-Winning Photos from the 2016 Audubon Photography Awards

Bonnie Block // 2016 Audubon Photography Awards
Bonnie Block // 2016 Audubon Photography Awards

Each year, Audubon magazine hosts the annual Audubon Photography Awards. The contest highlights some of the best works in bird photography, and pays tribute to the delicate winged creatures that grace the skies.

For the 2016 Audubon Photography Awards, a panel of five judges—including last year’s Grand Prize winner, wildlife photographer Melissa Groo—evaluated nearly 7000 submissions from more than 1700 competitors. Today, the magazine announced its five top winners.

The selected photographs will run in Audubon magazine and Nature’s Best Photography magazine, and will also be displayed within the 2016 Nature’s Best Photography Exhibition at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. In the meantime, check out the winning shots along with some honorable mentions below. For more information, visit Audubon’s website for full anecdotes from each photographer about their photo.

GRAND PRIZE WINNER: BONNIE BLOCK

Bald Eagle, Great Blue Heron. Bonnie Block/Audubon Photography Awards

PROFESSIONAL WINNER: DICK DICKINSON

Osprey. Dick Dickinson/Audubon Photography Awards

AMATEUR WINNER: STEVE TORNA

Eared Grebe. Steve Torna/Audubon Photography Awards

YOUTH WINNER: CAROLINA ANNE FRASER

Great Frigatebird. Carolina Anne Fraser/Audubon Photography Awards

FINE ART WINNER: BARBARA DRISCOLL

Green Violetear. Barbara Driscoll/Audubon Photography Awards

 AMATEUR HONORABLE MENTION: ARTUR STANKIEWICZ

Black-winged Stilt. Artur Stankiewicz/Audubon Photography Awards

AMATEUR HONORABLE MENTION: COLLEEN GARA

Common Raven. Colleen Gara/Audubon Photography Awards

HONORABLE MENTION, FINE ART: BLAKE SHAW

Turkey Vulture. Blake Shaw/Audubon Photography Awards

AMATEUR HONORABLE MENTION: MARTIN V. SNEARY 

Piping Plover. Martin V.Sneary/Audubon Photography Awards
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Animals
Where Do Birds Get Their Songs?
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iStock

Birds display some of the most impressive vocal abilities in the animal kingdom. They can be heard across great distances, mimic human speech, and even sing using distinct dialects and syntax. The most complex songs take some practice to learn, but as TED-Ed explains, the urge to sing is woven into songbirds' DNA.

Like humans, baby birds learn to communicate from their parents. Adult zebra finches will even speak in the equivalent of "baby talk" when teaching chicks their songs. After hearing the same expressions repeated so many times and trying them out firsthand, the offspring are able to use the same songs as adults.

But nurture isn't the only factor driving this behavior. Even when they grow up without any parents teaching them how to vocalize, birds will start singing on their own. These innate songs are less refined than the ones that are taught, but when they're passed down through multiple generations and shaped over time, they start to sound similar to the learned songs sung by other members of their species.

This suggests that the drive to sing as well as the specific structures of the songs themselves have been ingrained in the animals' genetic code by evolution. You can watch the full story from TED-Ed below, then head over here for a sample of the diverse songs produced by birds.

[h/t TED-Ed]

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NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
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Animals
Watch the First-Ever Footage of a Baby Dumbo Octopus
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
NOAA, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Dumbo octopuses are named for the elephant-ear-like fins they use to navigate the deep sea, but until recently, when and how they developed those floppy appendages were a mystery. Now, for the first time, researchers have caught a newborn Dumbo octopus on tape. As reported in the journal Current Biology, they discovered that the creatures are equipped with the fins from the moment they hatch.

Study co-author Tim Shank, a researcher at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Massachusetts, spotted the octopus in 2005. During a research expedition in the North Atlantic, one of the remotely operated vehicles he was working with collected several coral branches with something strange attached to them. It looked like a bunch of sandy-colored golf balls at first, but then he realized it was an egg sac.

He and his fellow researchers eventually classified the hatchling that emerged as a member of the genus Grimpoteuthis. In other words, it was a Dumbo octopus, though they couldn't determine the exact species. But you wouldn't need a biology degree to spot its resemblance to Disney's famous elephant, as you can see in the video below.

The octopus hatched with a set of functional fins that allowed it to swim around and hunt right away, and an MRI scan revealed fully-developed internal organs and a complex nervous system. As the researchers wrote in their study, Dumbo octopuses enter the world as "competent juveniles" ready to jump straight into adult life.

Grimpoteuthis spends its life in the deep ocean, which makes it difficult to study. Scientists hope the newly-reported findings will make it easier to identify Grimpoteuthis eggs and hatchlings for future research.

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