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Winning images from 2020 Bird Photographer of the Year competition

An impressionistic image of European Shags by Majed AlZa’abi from Kuwait took top prize in the 2020 Bird Photographer of the Year contest, which is run by the UK-based conservation charity Birds on the Brink. Majed wins the top prize of £5,000 (about $6,500) and the title “Bird Photographer of the Year 2020.” Majed’s image was also the winning image in the Best Portrait category of the competition, and for that he wins a pair of Swarovski Optik binoculars.

The judging team, which included BirdWatching Contributing Editor Brian Small and Editor Matt Mendenhall, said this about the shag photo: 

“To win this competition, it takes a very special photograph. Technical perfection is simply not enough; it is the imaginative eye and a mind that seeks out the unusual and the artistic in the everyday that will do well. The vast majority of the 15,000 images entered annually are of an amazing standard, sufficient eye-candy to feed even the most visually gluttonous. But create a photograph that makes us sick with envy or cry out with uncontained excitement, then you are in with a chance. When that collective shout from the judges is ‘I wish I had taken that myself’, then you are onto a winner. Well done Majed for sharing this stunning image with us – it is a well-deserved winner.”

The slideshow below features the Gold, Silver, and Bronze winners of each category, as well as the contest’s Inspirational Encounters Award, which conveys a photographer’s significant moment with a bird. The images here represent some of the very best bird photographs we have ever seen. Enjoy! 

Birds in the Environment Bronze Award

Birds in the Environment Bronze Award

A NEW BEGINNING by Swayamsiddha Mohapatra, India.

Indian Roller, Kaziranga National Park, India.

Photographer's Story: What appears to be destruction is actually regeneration in disguise. This is a frequent sight in Kaziranga National Park during late winter, when every year the forest officials set the grassland alight, patch by patch; the practice is a part of habitat management. The grasslands support a large number of herbivores, ranging from Indian Hog Deer to the Vulnerable Indian (or Greater One-horned) Rhinoceros. Tall grasses start to dry off by January, which reduces their nutritional value. Burning the grasses causes new, nutritious grasses to grow. The practice is also known to arrest the successional process whereby grassland eventually becomes forest, a process that is known to have increased thanks to vegetation mapping surveys of India. Kaziranga is divided into approximately 30 blocks based on various features, such as vegetation and natural topography. Each block is burned one by one and patch by patch. During the burning, a plethora of birds congregate near the site to eat insects that are driven out by the fire. We had stopped near one such burning site when we spotted a huge congregation of Indian Rollers. Here, a roller can be seen sitting on a pole waiting for the right moment to grab a bite. Using spot metering and by purposefully underexposing the image, I was able to get the desired result.

Canon EOS 600D Mark II with Canon EF100–400mm f/4.5–5.6L IS USM lens. Focal length 390mm; 1/1,250 second; f/5.6; ISO 100.

More photo contest winners

2019 Bird Photographer of the Year winners  

2020 BirdWatching Photography Awards winners

Audubon’s 2020 photo contest winners

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