A photograph of a peregrine falcon protects her young by tackling an unlucky brown pelican that ventured too close to its nest has taken the grand prize at the Bird Photography of the Year 2023.
The top prize winning photograph taken by photographer Jack Zhi, from the USA, came out victorious among the more than 20,000 images in this year’s competition.
“Each image is not merely a testament to the immense talent of our photographers, but a poignant reminder of the breathtaking beauty of birds, writes competition Director Will Nicholls.
Other winners include 17-year-old German photographer Anton Trexler who won The Young Bird Photographer of the Year 2023 for his stunning image of a blackbird silhouetted against the moon.
Take a look at the stunning winning images below:
BIRD BEHAVIOR CATEGORY
GRAB THE BULL BY THE HORNS. Peregrine Falcon Falco peregrinus and Brown Pelican Pelecanus occidentalis. Southern California, United States
“During the breeding season, a female Peregrine Falcon fiercely protects her young, attacking anything that comes near the nest,” Jack Zhi writes. “For four years, I attempted to capture these rare moments of her attacking large Brown Pelicans with incredible speed and agility. The high-speed chase made it challenging to capture a close-up shot with a long lens. The falcon’s precision was amazing as it struck at the pelican’s head.”
BLUE-FOOTED FISHING DIVE. Blue-footed Booby Sula nebouxii. Los Islotes, Baja California Sur, Mexico.
“In early autumn, a sardine shoal at Los Islotes attracted seabird predators. Amid the shoal, I waited patiently for the elusive shot of a Blue-footed Booby rising with a sardine in its beak,” says Henley Spiers. “Finally, a crash came down close to me, and I instinctively captured the moment.”
A MOTHER’S LOVE. Great Grey Owl Strix nebulosa. Zhejiang, China
“A Great Grey Owl adult was hunting in a wheat field, and a juvenile flew to the edge of the field to be fed. Suddenly, the parent caught some prey,” writes Qiuqing Mu. “I quickly pressed the shutter and captured a heartwarming moment between the parent and the next generation.”
BEST PORTRAIT CATEGORY
GLISTENING-GREEN. Glistening-green Tanager Chlorochrysa phoenicotis. Mashpi Amagusa Reserve, Ecuador.
Nicolas Reusens describes, “Venturing into the tropical forest, I was excited to spot the rare Glistening-green Tanager. After hours of waiting, I saw the vivid-green bird on a perfect heart-shaped leaf. Its shimmering feathers reflected a dazzling array of colours. I captured every detail, grateful for this magical moment amid the lush jungle backdrop.”
PARENTING GOALS. Emperor Penguin Aptenodytes forsteri. Antarctica.
“Before capturing this image, I spent two days observing these penguins, lying flat on the ice to avoid scaring them,” Thomas Vijayan says. “Waiting for the chick to appear, I finally got this touching shot of parental love. I trekked eight hours a day on soft snow to reach this colony and even made friends with some penguins.”
COMING STORM. Canada Jay Perisoreus canadensis. Adirondack Park, New York, United States.
“The best place to see Canada Jays for those living in Montreal is across the border in upstate New York. During my winter 2022 visit to Adirondack Park, I focused on capturing this species. This image shows a jay seemingly concerned that the snow is ramping up, and rightly so, as it made driving back home a challenge,” describes photographer Jake Levin.
BIRDS IN FLIGHT CATEGORY
FLYING SWORD. Sword-billed Hummingbird Ensifera ensifera. Bogotá, Colombia.
“The Sword-billed Hummingbird, common in the Andean forests, has the world’s longest bill relative to its size. This bird’s unique bill, adapted to feed on flowers with long corollas, makes it a vital pollinator, as bees and butterflies can’t reach the nectar and so don’t pollinate these plants,” photographer Rafael Armada shares. “This image captures the bird approaching a feeder, with natural backgrounds and lighting.”
GREEN PLANET FLAMINGOS. Lesser Flamingo Phoeniconaias minor. Lake Bogoria, Kenya.
Paul Mckenzie, Ireland says of his photo, “This aerial photograph captures a flock of Lesser Flamingos in flight over a vast and concentrated bloom of cyanobacteria (sometimes called blue-green algae), their staple food source. The photo was taken from the open doors of a light aircraft.”
COMMON NIGHTHAWK IN FLIGHT. Common Nighthawk Chordeiles minor. Florida, United States.
“At 10am, a Barn Owl appeared before us and we followed it to a crop field where it began hunting. Nearby, several cooperative Common Nighthawks circled around our vehicle,” describes Richard Sanchez. “I captured a perfect shot of them in flight, though it was partly a matter of luck.”
URBAN BIRDS CATEGORY
A MOMENT OF PRAYER Great Grey Owl Strix nebulosa. Helsinki, Finland.
“During winter migration, owls from northern Finland often head to the south where they can find more food due to less snow,” Arto Leppänen shares. “This Great Grey Owl chose a cemetery with abundant voles as its hunting ground. While hunting, the owl would often stop on tombstones or other structures to observe the area. Keeping a safe distance, I followed the owl and managed to capture a fleeting moment when it landed briefly on a beautiful angel statue.”
URBAN PARADISE. Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo. Shenzhen, China.
“From October to March, Shenzhen is a wintering ground for over 100,000 migratory birds. In January 2022, tens of thousands of Great Cormorants were spotted flying over Talent Park, adding to the area’s avian diversity,” writes Xiaoke Wang.
DAWN AT THE DOOR OF THE FARMHOUSE. European Stonechat Saxicola rubicola. Isso, Hellin, Albacete, Spain.
“This image features an abandoned farmhouse in my town, with a painting of a woman and a European Stonechat perched on the door,” describes Julian Fernandez Quilez. “I orientated the door to let the sunrise in and used three flashes to illuminate the painting. It took multiple sessions to achieve the desired effect.”
COMEDY BIRD PHOTO
NO WAY OUT. Purple Heron Ardea purpurea. Lake Chiusi, Italy.
“The Purple Heron is a migratory bird that nests in the lake basins of the Italian Peninsula and feeds mainly on fish, although it also preys on mice, snakes, toads and other creatures. In this shot, the heron caught a large Crucian Carp and voraciously swallowed it after several attempts to turn the fish onto its side,” describes photographer Antonio Aguti.
MORE FISH PLEASE! King Penguin Aptenodytes patagonicus. Saunders Island, Falkland Islands (Malvinas).
Levi Fitze says, “When observing King Penguins, I was struck by how their behavior sometimes resembles that of humans. This juvenile constantly begged until the annoyed adult walked away. However, the fact that the juvenile was more massive than the adult suggests good parenting overall.”
NORTHERN CRESTED CARACARA DISPLAY. Northern Crested Caracara Caracara cheriway. Santa Clara Ranch, Texas, United States.
“A group of Northern Crested Caracaras was gathered around some pieces of chicken that had been placed out for them. This individual was more interested in displaying to all the others while they ate,” says Ann Gillis.
SEEING EYE TO EYE. Southern Boobook Ninox boobook. Bonorong Wildlife Hospital, Brighton, Tasmania, Australia.
“Southern Boobooks, the smallest Australian owl species, are often brought to veterinary hospitals after car accidents. Their large, outward- projecting eyes adapted for low-light hunting make them vulnerable to injury,” says Michael Eastwell. “In this image, Dr Luke Gregory is examining an owl named ‘Rocket’, focusing on the posterior eye, where injuries can be less visible.”
BIRDS IN THE ENVIRONMENT CATEGORY
SUNFLOWER PARADISE. Brambling Fringilla montifringilla. Lower Silesia, Poland.
“Flooding meant that a field of sunflowers could not be harvested, and thousands of birds, including Greenfinches, Goldfinches, and Bramblings, flocked to it in winter. Despite their colourful plumage making them easy targets, when foraging their colours blend with the surroundings, making them hard for predators to spot. Using a wide- angle lens masked with snow and dried sunflowers, I photographed a flock of Bramblings from their perspective, with one perched in front of my camera,” says photographer Mateusz Piesiak.
THE DANCE OF THE SHADOWS. Emperor Penguin Aptenodytes forsteri. Adélie Land, Antarctica.
Clément Cornec writes, “The Emperor Penguin breeds during winter in Antarctica, the coldest environment on Earth. It endures temperatures as low as -40°C during the long polar nights and 250km/h blizzards. Adaptations allow it to maintain body temperature and conserve energy.”
STARING AT THE RIVER. White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus. Kuusamo, Finland.
“Last winter, I spent considerable time at the Kitka River in Finland photographing White-throated Dippers. The conditions were ideal, with abundant dippers, fresh snow and crystal-clear ice. However, the harsh temperatures, reaching as low as -27°C, were a challenge,” describes Stefan Gerrits. “I focused on longer-exposure shots, using a 70–200mm lens to capture silky-smooth water in each photo.”
BLACK AND WHITE CATEGORY
FASCINATING DROPLET. Musk Duck Biziura lobata. Perth, Australia.
Jason Moore says, “A young Musk Duck seems mesmerised by a drop of water falling from its mother’s mouth. Of course, it’s actually interested in the morsel of food that she has in her bill. Their coloration may be drab, but they more than make up for it with their beautiful expressions and fascinating displays.”
15-17 YEARS CATEGORY
BLUE HOUR AND RED MOON. Eurasian Blackbird Turdus merula. Mainz, Germany.
“Blackbird singing in the dead of night. Blue atmosphere and red moon. Getting up before sunrise allows you to experience the magical awakening of animals. The blackbird is one of the first animals to awaken,” writes 17-year-old Anton Trexler.
12-14 YEARS CATEGORY
HIGH-KEY TERNS. Arctic Tern Sterna paradisaea and Common Tern Sterna hirundo. Örnsköldsvik, Sweden.
Harry Sedin says, “In a small inlet in Örnsköldsvik, there are terns everywhere during summer. So, one afternoon on an overcast day, I headed down to the water with the goal of photographing terns in flight. Instead of that, I ended up photographing an Arctic and Common Tern perched together on a railing. By utilizing the white of their bodies, the overcast weather and the bright reflections in the water, I captured a high-key image of the two terns.”
11 AND UNDER CATEGORY
VERDITER FLYCATCHER. Verditer Flycatcher Eumyias thalassinus. Pelling, Sikkim, India.
“Pelling is one of the most beautiful hill stations in India. I observed so many birds when I visited the area,” says Arko Saha. “I snapped this very colourful bird in a garden near our hotel. The extremely vibrant blue colour makes this bird so beautiful.”
Central to the Bird Photographer of the Year contest is the message of conservation. Nicholls says, “The astonishing calibre of these photographs underscores a vital message: let us champion the cause of conservation, so that future generations can marvel at the real-life inspirations behind these extraordinary images.”
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.
Awarded images are published in a hardcover book of the photographs which is published annually by William Collins.
To learn more about Bird of the Year Photographer and to enter the 2024 competition visit their website at: birdpoty.com
Photos are published on Reshareworth.com with permission from Bird of the Year Photographer.