From a dive off of a snow-covered mountain to a dive into an enormous school of fish. From a mating ritual in the treed canopies in South Africa to the lekking sites on the plains of Colorado. Birds live in nearly every corner of Planet Earth and the photographers participating in The Bird Photographer of the Year 2022 competition ventured to places near and far to capture these stunning images of the feathered animals.
More than 20,000 images are submitted to the world’s largest bird photography competition. This year’s grand prize winner is Norwegian photographer Erlend Haarberg for his beautiful image of a Rock Ptarmigan diving off a snowy peak in Norway’s Tysfjorden.
“Once again our talented photographers have cast a light on the incredible diversity of bird life that we share our planet with,” says Will Nicholls, Director of Bird Photographer of the Year. Enjoy more of this year’s winning photographs in the incredible selection below:
Best Portrait Category
STRUT PERFORMER, Sage Grouse, Centrocercus urophasianus. Colorado, United States of America
“You know that springtime has arrived on the prairies of the Great Basin of the American West when the Sage Grouse gather at their leks. On these traditional display grounds, males of this Near Threatened species perform their strutting displays in the hope of winning the right to mate.”
“This behaviour is for the benefit of the females, which judge the talent show and select the best genes to pass on to the next generation,” says photographer Ly Dang, who has tried for many years to take this portrait shot. Note: The photograph was taken without using baiting, calls, lures or unethical practices of any kind.
PUFFIN LOVE, Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica. Elliston, Newfoundland, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.
Brad James says of his photo, “As the morning sun glistens over the surface of the ocean below, a pair of Atlantic Puffins beautifully stationed on a dramatic cliff edge reinforce the intimate bond that exists between them.”
THE DOTING COUPLE, Purple-crested Turaco Gallirex porphyreolophus. Lower Mpushini, near Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.
“I have seen Purple-crested Turacos on hundreds of occasions and have always tried to take special photographs of them. They are such iconic African birds and are sought-after subjects, Richard Flack writes about his Bird Portrait.
“Unfortunately, they are shy characters and tend to avoid camera lenses. However, while birding in a small conservancy in the Lower Mpushini area near Pietermaritzburg my luck with them changed completely. Seemingly out of nowhere, this exquisite pair flew out from thick cover and landed a few metres in front of me….The turaco pair seemed much more interested in each other than in me, which allowed for some unbelievable photographic moments.”
Attention To Detail Category
SLEEPING BEAUTY, King Penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus. Volunteer Point, Falkland Islands.
Andy Pollard says of his unusual close-up, “While most images of King Penguins seem to be of striking adult birds, there is a definite cuteness to the chicks in their brown ‘teddy bear’ plumage. This chick was asleep at Volunteer Point in the Falkland Islands, and I took the opportunity to capture the details around the beak, eye and ear, the latter seldom seen.”
CRAZY. Western Capercaillie Tetrao urogallus. Stockholm, Sweden.
“This seemingly fearless Western Capercaillie was approaching people during lekking time and displaying his beautiful feathers and form. He wasn’t aggressive and seemed calm even while people looked on,” describes photographer Isabella Chowra. “As I knew that he resided in a forest near Stockholm, I took my macro lens with me to achieve this tight framing with the background created by his tail feathers. The nictitating membrane was a nice bonus.”
BEADS OF DIAMONDS. Great Northern Diver Gavia immer. Cariboo region, British Columbia, Canada.
American photographer Sue Dougherty says, “I spent some time in the Cariboo region of British Columbia photographing a very accommodating family of Common Loons (or Great Northern Divers as they are known in Europe).” She used a low-sided boat to get up close.
“As I floated in silence, I watched the parent divers feed leeches and tiny fish to their chick – just days old – and they were unconcerned by my presence. In fact, the adults actually approached the boat and made repeated dives under and around it. I was able to capture the moment this one surfaced with perfect hydrodynamic lines of water droplets adorning its head from beak to neck. They looked like glimmering beads of diamonds framing its ruby-red eye.”
Bird Behavior Category
DUELLING ON THE LEK. Sage Grouse Centrocercus urophasianus. Colorado, United States of America.
“During the spring breeding season, male Sage Grouse gather on traditional lekking sites and often engage in short but violent fights. They have an elaborate display designed to attract and impress females and show their superiority; inevitably this leads to rivalry between males and challenges on the lek,” says Peter Ismert. Using a ground hide, Ismert camped out over night. “At first light I awoke to booming sounds made by the male grouse, and the sight of their unusual display and this particular battle.” No bait or calls were used.
GUILLEMOT SWIMMERS. Common Guillemot Uria aalge. Berwickshire Marine Reserve, Scotland.
“Common Guillemots (Common Murres) are incredible freedivers – so good, in fact, that studies have shown that of all flying birds, this humble species is the most efficient swimmer,” says Henley Spiers. “It is bested in the water only by penguins, with which it shares similar stylistic traits. The difference, of course, is that penguins – perhaps descended from the same auk family as Common Guillemots – sacrificed their ability to fly as they adapted to an aquatic existence.”
WAXWING SILHOUETTE. Bohemian Waxwing Bombycilla garrulus. Kentville, Nova Scotia, Canada.
“A flock of more than 100 Bohemian Waxwings descended onto these berry bushes, devouring them right in front of me. Not only are they beautiful birds, but the action of them picking berries and often flipping them in the air to eat them is impressive and very photogenic,” says Canadian photographer Simon d’Entremont.
Birds in Flight Category
SILO MURAL. Galah Eolophus roseicapilla. Yelarbon, Queensland, Australia.
“Large areas of Australia are flat, dry and given over to wheat farming. Towns can consist of as little as a truck stop and a collection of grain silos. In some locations, these silos have become popular palettes for enormous murals, drawing tourists into otherwise desolate areas,” explains Raoul Slater. “I passed through Yelarbon and stopped for two hours to photograph the Galahs that are attracted to spilt grain.”
STARLING AT NIGHT. Common Starling Sturnus vulgaris. Solihull, West Midlands, United Kingdom.
“To attract the Common Starling, I placed some sunflower seeds in a feeder, and as the bird came towards the feeder, I timed the shot to capture its descent,” says Mark Williams.
SCHALOW’S TURACO. Schalow’s Turaco Tauraco schalowi. Maasai Mara, Kenya.
“In more than a decade of wildlife photography I’ve never seen a decent photo of a Schalow’s Turaco in flight. Google it for yourself if you don’t believe me,” says Aaron Baggenstos. “These stunningly dressed birds spend most of their time high in the dark jungle canopy and are extremely fast in flight – I think of them as ‘bullet’ birds. This combination makes them almost impossible to photograph in flight.”
“You can imagine my excitement when I found out a few birds were flying across the river in front of my safari tent each morning at eye level,” Baggenstos continues. “My heart pounded as I stood on the bank waiting patiently as they called out from the tree tops. I just knew this was the opportunity of a lifetime.”
8 and Under Category
HOOT ARE YOU? Barred Owl Strix varia. Acadia National Park, Maine, United States of America.
“One of my parents’ friends, who lives nearby, took us on a hike to a location where she had seen Barred Owl chicks earlier in the week. Amazingly, we were just a few minutes into the hike when we heard them calling. Eventually we got to see four owlets, which was amazing. One landed close by and peered at me from behind a tree trunk in a way that seemed to express curiosity.”
9-13 Years Category
DROPLETS. Anna’s Hummingbird Calypte anna. Fremont, California, United States of America.
“In Fremont there is a water fountain that is a hotspot for hummingbirds,” Parham Pourahmad. “The birds like to bathe in the water, or in this case catch and sip the droplets. When the birds fly around among the droplets, it provides great opportunities for photography. I had to use a very fast shutter speed to freeze the water droplets and the wings of this Anna’s Hummingbird.”
SHADOWS. Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula. Grazalema, Spain.
“I enjoyed taking this picture of an Eurasian Blackbird because at that moment the silhouetted outline of the bird and the illuminated background combined in a pleasing and artistic way,” Andrés Luis Domínguez Blanco. “A few out-of-focus dewdrops created circles of bokeh that complement the image.”
HOP, SKIP AND JUMP. Plum-headed Parakeet Himalayapsitta cyanocephala. Hosanagara, Karnataka, India.
“There is a bird hide in the Western Ghats of India that has been installed specifically for observing and photographing parakeets. On the day I visited the site, there was good light, which was an encouraging sign. The aim was to get a sharp image of a bird in flight, and I was particularly keen to photograph a Plum-headed Parakeet. One landed on a crowded perch and, expecting it to fly away from the crowd, I tracked its movement and was able to capture this amazing moment.”
14-17 Years Category
The Young Bird Photographer of the Year 2022 was awarded to 17-year-old Swiss photographer Levi Fitze for his image of a dunlin struggling against a sandstorm.
FACING THE STORM. Dunlin Calidris alpina. Heligoland, Germany.
“Last autumn I spent a week on the tiny North Sea island of Heligoland,” describes Fitze. “The weather was quite bad and I didn’t see a single nice sunrise… When I saw a group of Dunlin struggling with a small sandstorm, I decided to risk my equipment and attempt to photograph them. I could really see on their faces how annoyed they were by the wind and sand flying everywhere. I sympathized with them.”
PIED AVOCET CHICK. Pied Avocet Recurvirostra avosetta. Kinskunság National Park, Hungary.
“This photograph was taken in an area I have known for a long time – it is a soda lake called Nagyszéksós-tó, near the town of Mórahalom. Kinskunság National Park introduced Water Buffalos (Bubalus bubalis) at least ten years ago, and the beneficial outcome has been that the birdlife has become very rich and diverse,” Tamás Koncz-Bisztricz. Until now, I have photographed only adult birds at this location, but I managed to observe and photograph Pied Avocet chicks in early summer.”
SUNSET. Kentish Plover Charadrius alexandrinus. Khok Kham, Samut Sakhon, Thailand.
“At the end of the day, this area of saltpans took on a beautiful, bright orange-red colour. I love watching the scene of waders foraging in such glorious light,” says Thamboon Uyyanonvara. He lay on a low ridge hoping the birds would appear and they did right when the sun was setting. “The sun’s glow contained tints of yellowish, pinkish and orange-red, and this little Kentish Plover was perfectly placed in the middle of its reflection on the saltwater surface.”
Urban Birds Category
OVER THE CITY. Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus. Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.
“This image was taken from the rooftop of one of the towering skyscraper buildings that dominate the skyline of Abu Dhabi. It shows a line of Greater Flamingos flying on a morning when fog covered the city and the only signs of the urban landscape were the tops of the buildings emerging from the blanket of mist,” says photographer Ammar Alsayed Ahmed.
Ahmed continues, “At the time it seemed a bit like a fantasy, a fleeting moment made surreal as the birds unexpectedly flew past. Fortunately, I was prepared for action and my zoom lens allowed me to frame the birds and capture the moment.”
GONZO. Little Owl Athene noctua. Harghita county, Transylvania, Romania.
One of Romanian photographer Laszlo Potozky’s favorite spots to take photos is in Transylvania’s Natura 2000 sites. But when he can’t find birds to take pictures of there he goes to an abandoned building where Little Owls have nested for more than a decade. “I arrived at the building following heavy rain and discovered that the Little Owl family had grown: three chicks had hatched a few weeks previously.” He titled the photo Gonzo, because he thought the chick resembled the famous character from The Muppet Show.
THE OWLET AND THE DUMP. Barred Owl Strix varia. Hillsboro, Oregon, United States of America.
Kerry Wu took the photo of the Barred owl among the garbage dumped by a nearby creek that the bird calls home. “The location is not a formal garbage dump as such, but rather a creek that runs through an urban park. Above the ravine is a native forest that this owlet, its family and many other wild animals call home. The owlets bathe and play around the creek, which unfortunately is where rubbish is dumped and accumulates.
“While I was watching the scene, one of the owlets even picked up a large rusty screw and ‘played’ with it as if it were a twig,” she writes. “At one point it looked right at me as if to say, ‘What have you done to my home?’ The ravine is, but shouldn’t be, a dumping ground and this scene broke my heart. Nature is not a landfill site. We can do better. We must do better.”
Birds in the Environment Category
ROCK PTARMIGAN FLIGHT. Rock Ptarmigan Lagopus muta. Tysfjord, Norway.
“High up in the mountains, the wind, snow and cold maintain the iron grip of winter for many months on end. This is where Rock Ptarmigan (Lagopus muta) thrive in an endless white landscape,” says Haarberg, this year’s Bird Photographer of the Year winner. “On this particular winter’s day, I was on my way to a mountain top. I had almost reached the summit when I spotted some ptarmigan tracks in the snow. Soon a bird took flight, with the dramatic backdrop showing what a harsh environment this bird calls home.”
FREE AS A BIRD. European Shag Gulosus aristotelis. Asturias, Spain.
“This image shows a European Shag as it flies over a huge wave of about 8m high off the west coast of Asturias in northern Spain,” writes Mario Suarez Porras. “It made me reflect on how lucky the bird was to be free and able to fly with strength and determination in the most difficult conditions.”
Black and White Category
BETWEEN TWO WORLDS Double-crested Cormorant Nannopterum auritus. Espíritu Santo, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
Henley Spiers captured this shot between two worlds. “Below, an enormous school of fish covered the bottom as far as I could see. Above, a single Double-crested Cormorant patrolled the surface, catching its breath and peering down at a potential underwater feast…This image captures the hostile black silhouette of the cormorant as it dives down onto its prey, which for a brief moment remain unaware of the danger above.”
At the heart of the Bird Photographer of the Year contest is conservation. Competition director Will Nicholls writes that the competition’s photos not only delight “but it is also a stark reminder of what we stand to lose if we don’t continue to look after the natural world and fight for its protection from the many threats that exist today.”
This year, the competition donated more than £5,000 to partner charity Birds on the Brink, which provides vital funding to grass-roots bird conservation projects around the world.
To learn more about Bird of the Year Photographer and to enter the 2023 competition visit their website at: birdpoty.com
Photos are published on Reshareworth.com with permission from Bird of the Year Photographer.