The winner of Georgia's 2021 T-shirt Art Contest will succeed the 2020 winner, Alston Li. Credit: Linda May/Georgia DNR

By David Pendered

The pandemic hasn’t stopped the T-shirt Art Contest that’s part of Georgia’s planned 16th annual Youth Birding Competition. The statewide art contest was won last year by an eighth-grader from Duluth.

Previous winners of the statewide T-shirt Art Contest include: Top – 2020, Alston Li; Credit: Linda May/Georgia DNR; Bottom – 2010, Jess Miller; Credit: Georgia DNR

One wrinkle in this year’s birding event is that adults and children may be elbowing each other for the best view of birds.

Bird watching has become a huge spectator sport during the COVID-19 era. An all-time high of 50,000 participants submitted more than 2.1 million observations of birds spotted during a single day, which was the May 9, 2020 Global Big Day.

“That means Global Big Day 2020 collected more information on birds than was submitted during the first 2.5 years of eBird’s existence, Ian Davies, eBird coordinator for Cornell Lab of Ornithology, said in a statement.

Since 2002, eBird has collected more than 810 million observations of birds.

The Georgia Department of Natural Resources is taking steps to build off this momentum of interest in birding in the 16th annual birding event for Georgia’s youth.

This year, the pitch to young artists is that their drawings could set them on a path toward one day being an expert on birds and, perhaps, making a life of drawing birds:

  • “Many famous ornithologists were bird artists when they were young, so perhaps you could be the next John James Audubon, Roger Tory Peterson or David Allen Sibley!”

Audubon, of course, was the namesake of the National Audubon Society. Peterson, who died in 1996, was a founder of the modern environmental movement. Sibley, still very much alive, was 7 years old when he started drawing birds and now produces stunning field guides in partnership with Audubon.

Two previous winners in the primary school category of T-shirt Art Contest drew painted buntings: Left – 2010, Gracie Black; Credit: Georgia DNR; Right – 2020, Jayden Lee; Credit: Linda May/Georgia DNR;

The ground rules of the T-shirt contest are easy, but the details do get complicated. The basic rule states:

  • “All you need to do is draw or paint your favorite native Georgia bird on paper or sheet canvas (at least 8″x10” but no larger than 11″x17”), and email a photo of your artwork (from a camera or smartphone) by March 10….”

Then the details take shape:

  • “Make sure the bird species you draw or paint is native to Georgia and not previously featured on a Youth Birding Competition T-shirt.
  • “Make sure the bird species you draw or paint is native to Georgia and not previously featured on a Youth Birding Competition T-shirt.
  • “Pay attention to the bird’s features. Draw or paint them accurately.
  • “To show up well on a T-shirt, the bird needs to be the main focus of your artwork.
  • “Deep contrasting colors scan best for a T-shirt.”

The suggestion on drawing only a bird native to Georgia could take a young artist straight to a field guide by Sibley, once a 7-year-old boy who drew birds for fun and now is an adult who has released the second edition of The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America.

The contest has four age categories and the statewide winner could be chosen from any of them:

  • Primary (Pre-K–2nd Grade)
  • Elementary (3rd–5th Grade)
  • Middle School (6th–8th Grade)
  • High School (9th–12th Grade)

The winning image is to appear on the annual Youth Birding Competition T-shirt, plus a $100 Amazon gift card. Each of the other winner is to receive a $50 Amazon gift card.

Winners of the art contest will receive their prizes even if the actual birding competition is cancelled for reasons related to COVID-19. The T-Shirt won’t be printed with the winning artwork if the event is cancelled. The birding event is scheduled Aug. 23 and Aug. 24.

Note to readers: More information about the art contest is available here, and art contest coordinator Linda May can be reached at 706-319-0211 or

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written...

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