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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! 

Creative Imagery Gold Award

Creative Imagery Gold Award

MANDARIN ABSTRACT by James Hudson, United Kingdom.

Mandarin Duck, South Yorkshire, United Kingdom.

Photographer's Story: The Mandarin drake has arguably the most flamboyant plumage of any bird living in the UK. In Sheffield there are several places where Mandarins can be found living alongside people. In some cases, these wild ducks see humans more as a supplier of free food than a threat. As a result, I was able to get close enough to this individual to experiment with long-exposure photography and intentional camera-movement techniques. I wanted to create abstract images that captured the vibrancy of the duck’s feathers as well as the excitement I feel when I see these extraordinary birds.

Nikon D300 with AF-S Nikkor DX 55–300mm f/4.5–5.6G ED VR lens. Focal length 300mm; 1/8 second; f/29; ISO 280.

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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