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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 Gold Award

Birds in the Environment Gold Award

SWIFTS OVER IGUAZÚ FALLS by Francesco Filippo Pellegrini, Italy.

Great Dusky Swift, Iguazú Falls, Misiones, Argentina.

Photographer's Story: A few years ago I had a chance to visit the world-famous Iguazú Falls with my wife. Even though I had been told it was an amazing place, I nevertheless felt overwhelmed by the beauty of the valley: I was not prepared at all for the spectacle. Waterfalls are amazing places for photography, with a variety of wildlife sometimes framed by rainbows caused by the mist of the cascades. In Iguazú’s unique environment, the ‘swifts of the falls’ find the perfect shelter for breeding. While I was staring at a feature called the Devil’s Throat, I saw flocks of these birds flying all around. Due to the mist caused by the falls, I struggled taking this shot as I had to keep the front of the lens free of water drops.

Olympus E-3 with Olympus Zuiko 50–200mm f/2.8–3.5 SWD lens. Focal length ; 1/1,250 second; f/9; ISO 100. Hand-held.

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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