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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! 

Garden and Urban Birds Gold Award

Garden and Urban Birds Gold Award

PHOTOBOMBING A GAME by Magdaléna Straková, Czech Republic.

House Crow, Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Photographer's Story: I was staying in an apartment in a high-rise building in Colombo and noticed this street basketball court under my balcony. I waited for a group of locals to come there in the evening and after I finally saw someone playing, I got out on the balcony. I leaned toward the railings to start shooting with my long lens pointing downwards and immediately regretted the idea – the metal railing was still blisteringly hot from the sun! Carefully balancing over the railings (20 floors up!) so as not to burn myself again, I took several series of shots. But I felt something was still missing… When I noticed the crow flying by, I quickly shot a couple more frames. I immediately knew that this was the element I had been waiting for to ‘complete’ my picture!

Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon EF70–200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens. Focal length 200mm; 1/1,000 second; f/6.3; ISO 640.

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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