Jim Burns of Scottsdale, Arizona, is the winner of our 2022 BirdWatching Photography Awards contest with this remarkable photo of a fight between a Gilded Flicker and a European Starling.
He took the photo at Tonto National Forest in Maricopa County, Arizona, on April 19, 2021.
“Earlier in the spring, I had discovered a pair of Gilded Flickers excavating a nesting cavity near the top of a Giant Saguaro,” Jim writes. “As spring progressed, buds appeared at the top of the cactus, and I realized when it flowered it would be attracting other birds to the pollen and insects on the blossoms. I anticipated, correctly, that the flickers would never tolerate other birds feeding literally on their ‘roof,’ and I was able to spend several weeks photographing the often spectacular aerial battles undertaken by the woodpeckers in territorial defense. This was my favorite frame as the male flicker’s full wingspread highlighted the beautiful underwing color for which it is named and the subtle iridescence of the breeding-plumaged starling, which is not often observed. The starling’s talons-to-the-face attack position and the flicker’s closed eye speak to the intensity of these battles. I can report, in this case, both combatants flew off unscathed.”
Gear and settings: Canon R5 and Canon 100-500 zoom lens, handheld. Exposure data: 1/6400 @ f/7.1, ISO 800, exposure compensation -1/3.
Many thanks to our panel of guest judges: Contributing Editors Laura Erickson, Pete Dunne, and Brian E. Small; professional photographers Marie Read and Alan Murphy; Outdoor Photographer editors Wes Pitts and Kristan Ashworth; and Imaging Resource Managing Editor William Brawley.