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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! 

Bird Behavior Bronze Award

Bird Behavior Bronze Award

ROPEWALKER by Nicolas Reusens, Sweden.

Sword-billed Hummingbird, Papallacta, Ecuador.

Photographer's Story: On my last trip to Ecuador I had the luck of watching a very unusual bird coming to a feeder — the incredible Sword-billed Hummingbird! They usually avoid sugar-water feeders, but this specimen seemed to be brave enough to visit from time to time (every 30–60 minutes). I realized this was going to be a very intense week, and instead of traveling the country, I decided to get as many Sword-bill pictures as I could. I needed four flash guns, a remote trigger on the camera and tons of patience in order to get this capture. I spent six full-on days, busy from 6am to 6pm, on the task, and it wasn’t until the very last afternoon that I got one of the most unusual images of my life! It was definitely a once-in-a-lifetime shot, and also of a very shy bird: the amazing Sword-billed Hummingbird.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II with Laowa Venus 15mm Ultra-wide Macro Manual lens. Focal length 15mm; 1/125 second; f/11; ISO 1,250. Four Phottix flashes; Phottix remote trigger; home-made diffusers; Benro tripod and ballhead.

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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