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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 Flight Silver Award

Birds in Flight Silver Award
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TOUCH AND GO by Nikos Fokas, Greece.

Pallid Swift, Athens, Attica, Greece.

Photographer's Story: Pallid Swifts are breeding visitors to Greece, and during the summer months they perform spectacular dives into this small pool of water. They appear one after the other, as if they are competing to see which one will do the best dive or else the best surface-skim. This particular one won that year’s competition by performing a high-speed open-winged dive with a splash, catching floating insects while keeping eye contact with the camera. I would award it ten out of ten for style and performance.

Canon EOS 7D Mark II with Canon EF300mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. Focal length 300mm; 1/4,000 second; f/6.3; ISO 1,250. Beanbag.


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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