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Common grackle photograph wins photo competition
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

Common grackle photograph wins photo competition

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NCWRC 2020 photo competition winner

Matt Cuda, 48, of Tobaccoville won the Wildlife in North Carolina photo competition with this photo of a common grackle. The photo was published on the cover of the January-February edition of "Wildlife in North Carolina" magazine.

RALEIGH — The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has named the winner of its 2020 “Wildlife in North Carolina” photo competition.

The winning image is a portrait shot of a common grackle, a blackbird native to North Carolina. The photograph, dramatically set against a black backdrop, was taken by Matt Cuda, 48, of Tobaccoville, a software developer who has been dabbling in amateur photography since 1995.

“I make enough money as a photographer to remain a solid software developer,” he said after learning of his win. “I was excited and humbled to realize that I was the winner in a magazine I read regularly.”

Birds are one of Cuda’s favorite subjects. He’s been snapping images of them since college on film and digital cameras.

He knew photographing the grackle against a dark setting was a risk, but his skillful use of light captured the bird’s stunning features, highlighting its iridescent feathers and bright yellow eyes.

“We had a wonderful selection of photographs submitted to the competition this year,” said Marsha Tillett, art director of Wildlife in North Carolina magazine. “The image of this grackle is no exception. Capturing a photograph of an ordinary bird in such a striking way requires experience and skill.”

More than 1,700 photographs were submitted for the competition. Judges included Tillett; Bryant Cole, the magazine's graphic designer; Melissa McGaw, staff photographer; and Thomas Harvey, former commission staffer and current freelance photographer.

As grand prize winner, Cuda’s photo is featured on the cover of the magazine's January-February issue and he will receive $200. All winning photographs, including Cuda’s, will be on display at the N.C. Museum of Natural Sciences in Raleigh and at

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