From the team at BBC Wildlife Magazine

Bird Photographer of the Year 2022

From penguins to hummingbirds, enjoy this selection of finalists from the 2022 Bird Photographer of the Year competition

GENTOO DANCING AT SUNSET
Published: June 15, 2022 at 4:25 pm
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What is the Bird Photographer of the Year competition?

More than 20,000 images were entered into the Bird Photographer of the Year 2022 competition. Competing for the £5,000 cash prize and prestigious title, photographers submitted images from 115 different countries this year.

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This selection is a sneak preview of what is still to come, with the winners being announced on the 8th September 2022.

“Birds are an incredibly diverse group of animals, and we’ve seen stunning images of everything from mallard ducks to harpy eagles this year,” says Will Nicholls, wildlife cameraman and Director at Bird Photographer of the Year. “We celebrate birds and conservation through images, and it is always a pleasure for everyone on the judging panel to see the work of such talented photographers.”

Find out more at birdpoty.com


To view the images as a slideshow, click on the arrows in the top right hand corner of the photos below.


Single File

Ben Cranke, South Africa. Category: Best Portrait.

King Penguin
King penguin (Aptenodytes patagonicas) in Gold Harbour, South Georgia. © Ben Cranke, Bird Photographer of the Year 2022.

On land, king penguins tend to be creatures of habit, and when moving from the sea to their nests they usually follow a well-trodden path. I took advantage of this behaviour to capture this image, hiding a camera on the edge of one of these paths and camouflaging it with snow. I used a wireless trigger to take this shot of the birds as they paraded past in orderly single file.

Nikon D810 with Nikon 18–35mm f/3.5–4.5 lens. Focal length 23mm; 1/500 second; f/11; ISO 200.

A Cartoon Bird Raising its 'Hands'

Weng Keong Liew, Malaysia. Category: Best Portrait.

Black-and-yellow Broadbill
Black-and-yellow Broadbill ( Eurylaimus ochromalus). Selangor, Malaysia. © Weng Keong Liew/Bird Photographer of the Year

It was the start of the breeding season, and this black-and-yellow broadbill was making a lot of commotion in an attempt to attract a mate. The courtship behaviour included a lot of noisy vocalisation and attention-seeking wing-spreading. To my eyes the plumage colours and patterns are like those an artist would use to illustrate a cartoon – stylised and somehow not quite like a real bird.

Fujifilm X-T4 with Canon 500mm f/4 II lens. Focal length 500mm; 1/250 second; f/4.5; ISO 400.

Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program

Walter Potrebka, Canada. Category: Conservation Award

Burrowing Owl Athene cunicularia. Manitoba, Canada.
Burrowing owl ( Athene cunicularia). Manitoba, Canada. © Walter Potrebka/Bird Photographer of the Year

I spent 2021 documenting the work of the Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program. As the project’s name suggests, it is working to re-establish the burrowing owl population in Manitoba, Canada. The approach involves the reintroduction of owl pairs and young, wild owl surveys, habitat improvement and community engagement. Owls are reintroduced every breeding season, with cooperation from private landowners. Despite these efforts, in the last ten years fewer than ten nesting pairs of wild burrowing owls have been recorded in Manitoba. To the team’s delight, and thanks to a local farmer, in 2021 a wild nest was reported with six healthy owlets, which was the first nest observed since 2011!

Sony A1 with Sony 70–200mm f/4 G lens. Focal length 70mm; 1/80 second; f/6.3; ISO 320.

View the winning entries from previous Bird Photographer of the Year competitions:

Category: Bird Photographer of the Year Overall Winner, and Best Portrait Gold award winner. End of the day. © Majed AlZa’abi, Kuwait

Wart Head

Leander Khil, Austria. Category: Best Portrait.

Ocellated Turkey
Ocellated Turkey ( Meleagris ocellata). Chan Chich, Belize. © Leander Khil/Bird Photographer of the Year

The colours and structures on the head of a male ocellated turkey surpass even those of its closest relative, the wild turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) of North America. I always wonder whether the orange warts that cover the head and neck could serve any other purpose than sexual selection – they seem so extravagant. To show the birds in a different way than is seen usually, I chose this head-on view when this individual made eye contact with me in a private reserve in Belize.

Nikon D810 with Nikon 200–500mm f/5.6 lens. Focal length 500mm; 1/250 second; f/6.3; ISO 500.

Fight

Erlend Haarberg, Norway. Category: Bird Behaviour.

Spotted Redshank
Spotted Redshank ( Tringa erythropus). Finnmark, Norway. © Erlend Haarberg/Bird Photographer of the Year

In 2020, spring was late arriving in Finnmark and there was still a lot of lingering snow when the first migratory birds arrived. As a result, there were only a few spots with open water on this particular river, and many waders gathered there in search of food while they waited for the snow to melt on their nesting grounds. I spent several days in my hide and was able to witness some interesting behaviour, including brutal battles between rival males, perhaps fuelled by frustration at being snowbound. The most impressive took place between these two spotted redshanks.

Nikon D850 with Nikon 180–400mm f/4 lens and 1.4× teleconverter. Focal length 550mm; 1/2,500 second; f/6.3; ISO 1,600.

Full Contact

Gabor Baross, Hungary. Category: Bird Behaviour.

Eurasian Spoonbill
Eurasian Spoonbill ( Platalea leucorodia). Hortobágy National Park, Hungary. © Gabor Baross/Bird Photographer of the Year

This image was taken on my second photographic session at this small pond. On my first visit there had been plenty of birds and lots of possibilities to take action photos. However, now the silence was my partner. All I had seen was a lone grey heron (Ardea cinerea) that attacked every bird that approached the pond.

However, in the afternoon the situation had improved and a group of Eurasian spoonbills landed not far away from me. It was immediately noticeable that there was an aggressor among them, a bird that had very strong territorial instincts. I focused my attention and camera on this bird. In the vast majority of cases, the other spoonbills chose to avoid confrontation. However, in one instance there was a bird that turned to face the aggressor and a minute of unbridled fighting began.

The level of aggression the birds displayed was far beyond my imagination. I felt like they were fighting for their lives, as they pressed each other’s heads under the water or just grabbed each other’s legs and did not let their rival fly away. During the combat they were getting closer and closer to me, so by the time this picture was taken they completely filled the frame.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with Canon 400mm f/2.8 lens. Focal length 400mm; 1/6,400 second; f/4; ISO 1,000.

Gentoo Dancing at Sunset

Audrey Wooller, United Kingdom. Category: Best Portrait.

GENTOO DANCING AT SUNSET
Gentoo Penguin ( Pygoscelis papua). Sea Lion Island, Falkland Islands. © Audrey Wooller/Bird Photographer of the Year

In the light of the setting sun, this penguin almost looked as if it were dancing. I positioned myself lying on the ground, waiting and hoping for a suitable penguin to pass during the few minutes when the setting sun created ideal light for a silhouette. This penguin obliged, with beak, feet and flippers nicely placed as it went past. I intentionally underexposed the image slightly to enhance the colours of the sunset against the silhouetted penguin.

Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with Canon 100–400mm f/4.5– 5.6 II lens. Focal length 371mm; 1/1,600 second; f/5.6; ISO 100.

Life Hanging in the Balance

Glenn Nelson, United States of America. Category: Bird Behaviour.

Great Blue Heron
Great Blue Heron ( Ardea herodias). Skagit Valley, Washington State, United States of America. © Glenn Nelson/Bird Photographer of the Year

I’d spent a good portion of the year photographing great blue herons, which is the official bird of my home town, Seattle. I had just taken possession of a brand-new lens and wanted to try something different, so I pulled off the road to observe a heron in a field. Until that point, I had been photographing these birds exclusively in the vicinity of water. I was shocked when the bird pulled up a vole and I literally had to force myself to keep photographing. Some will find this image too gruesome to look at, and the heron’s choice of prey will come as a surprise to many. It really should not: we humans devour other mammals, as well as birds, after all.

Nikon Z 6 with Nikon 500mm f/5.6 PF lens. Focal length 500mm; 1/3,200 second; f/5.6; ISO 2,800.

Head Over Heels in Love

Marti Phillips, United States of America. Category: Bird Behaviour.

Crested Caracara
Caracara ( Caracara cheriway). Laguna Seca Ranch, Edinburg, Texas, USA. © Marti Phillips/Bird Photographer of the Year

I travelled to the Rio Grande area in Texas to attend my first bird photography workshop. This image was taken from a hide where birds are fed regularly, and among the species attracted were crested caracaras. Most of the time they just sat around, so imagine my delight at being able to photograph these two individuals as they performed their mating behaviour.

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon 100–400mm f/4.5–5.6 II lens. Focal length 400mm; 1/500 second; f/5.6; ISO 2,000.

Hummingbird Hideaway

Liron Gertsman, Canada. Category: Bird Behaviour.

Anna’s Hummingbird
Anna’s Hummingbird ( Calypte anna). Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. © Liron Gertsman/Bird Photographer of the Year

During the Covid-19 pandemic, travel restrictions meant that my photographic pursuits were limited to my immediate neighbourhood for quite some time. I decided I would take the opportunity to get to know my local area in Vancouver as well as possible. Each morning, I ventured out to a local park, searching for birds and wildlife.

Over the course of the spring, I managed to locate seven Anna’s hummingbird nests in the area. Not wanting to disturb the birds in this important and sensitive stage of their life cycle, I would stay an appropriate distance from the nests and limit my visits to a maximum of 15 minutes.

I had been checking in on this particularly beautiful nest for a couple of weeks, as a hummingbird worked hard to build it and incubate her eggs. I was delighted when I stopped by one afternoon and saw two tiny beaks poking out of the tiny nest! When their mother flew in to feed them, I captured this intimate moment.

Canon R5 with Canon 100–400mm f/4.5–5.6 II lens and 1.4× teleconverter. Focal length 560mm; 1/160 second;
f/8; ISO 800.

Upland Buzzard Versus Corsac Fox

Baozhu Wang, China. Category: Bird Behaviour.

Upland Buzzard
Upland Buzzard ( Buteo hemilasius). Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China. © Baozhu Wang/Bird Photographer of the Year

This photograph was taken on the Mandu grasslands of Dongwu Banner in Inner Mongolia. Both upland buzzard and corsac fox (Vulpes corsac) are top predators in this grassy environment and share a diet that comprises mainly small rodents. Consequently, in terms of feeding they are rivals and are sometimes driven to fight each other over food.

This kind of confrontation is usually for show and a battle of will that never ends up with life-and-death conflict. In this instance, the upland buzzard decided to relinquish its food and fly away.

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Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon 600mm f/4 lens. Focal length 600mm; 1/1,600 second; f/4, ISO 160.

Authors

Paul McGuinnessEditor of BBC Wildlife and discoverwildlife.com

Paul is the editor of BBC Wildlife and discoverwildlife.com. A highly experienced magazine journalist with over 25 years in publishing, Paul was previously editor of BBC History Revealed and BBC Knowledge.

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