High flyers: Bird Photographer of the Year 2023 winners crowned
An image of a peregrine falcon tackling a brown pelican that ventured too close to its nest has taken the grand prize in the world’s largest bird photography competition.
Photographers from all over the world entered more than 20,000 images into
Bird Photographer of the Year, which awards a grand prize of £5,000 ($9,800 AUD) to the overall winner.
Jack Zhi, United States. Category: Bird Behaviour. Gold Award winner and Bird Photographer of the Year 2023. During the breeding season, a female Peregrine Falcon fiercely protects her young, attacking anything that comes near the nest. For four years, I attempted to capture these rare moments of her attacking large Brown Pelicans with incredible speed and agility. The high-speed chase made it challenging to capture a close-up shot with a long lens. The falcon’s precision was amazing as it struck at the pelican’s head. Sony A9 II with Sony 600mm f/4 G lens. 600mm; 1/4,000s; f/6.3; ISO 1,000.
Photographer Jack Zhi, from the USA, was declared this year’s grand prize winner for his dramatic image taken in Southern California.
“For four years, I attempted to capture the rare sight of the female falcon attacking large brown pelicans with incredible speed and agility,” says Zhi. “I love the eyes of the pelican in this image - surprised and scared. The action was fast, and over in the blink of an eye. But I’ll remember that moment forever.”
Australian photographers have also shined in the competition, with Perth photographer Jason Moore winning the Black and White category, and Cheng Kang taking out third place.
Jason Moore, Australia. Category: Black and White. Gold Award winner. A young Musk Duck seems mesmerised by a drop of water falling from its mother’s mouth. Of course, it’s actually interested in the morsel of food that she has in her bill. Their coloration may be drab, but they more than make up for it with their beautiful expressions and fascinating displays. Sony A1 with Sony 600mm f/4 G lens. 600mm; 1/1,250s; f/4; ISO 1,600.
Cheng Kang, Australia. Category: Black and White. Bronze Award winner. On a winter morning, fog swirled around perched birds and dead trees like tentacles. It was a breathtaking sight that filled me with calm and tranquillity. Converting the image to black and white in post-processing further emphasised the sense of stillness and peace. Canon EOS R5 with Canon 100–500mm f/4.5–7.1 lens. 363mm; 1/2,000s; f/7.1; ISO 160.
Photographers competed in eight different categories in the adult competition: Best Portrait, Birds in the Environment, Bird Behaviour, Birds in Flight, Black and White, Urban Birds, Conservation (Single Image), and Comedy Bird Photo. There was also a Conservation Award, Portfolio Award, and Video Award.
“Each image is not merely a testament to the immense talent of our photographers, but a poignant reminder of the breathtaking beauty of birds,” says Will Nicholls, Director of Bird Photographer of the Year.
“The astonishing calibre of these photographs underscores a vital message: let us champion the cause of conservation, so that future generations can marvel at the real-life inspirations behind these extraordinary images.”
Anton Trexler, Germany. Category: 15–17 years. Gold Award winner and Young Bird Photographer of the Year. Blackbird singing in the dead of night. Blue atmosphere and red moon. Getting up before sunrise allows you to experience the magical awakening of animals. The blackbird is one of the first animals to awaken. Nikon D3S with Nikon 300mm f/2.8 lens. 300mm; 1/125s; f/2.8; ISO 640.
The Young Bird Photographer of the Year 2023 was awarded to 17-year-old German photographer Anton Trexler for his incredibly atmospheric image of a blackbird silhouetted against the moon.
The competition also donated £5,000 to partner charity
Birds on the Brink, which provides funding to grass-roots bird conservation projects around the world.
All awarded images are published by William Collins in a hard-back coffee-table book, which is now available online at
You can see all the finalist images below.
Nicolas Reusens, Spain. Category: Best Portrait. Gold Award Winner. Venturing into the tropical forest, I was excited to spot the rare Glistening-green Tanager. After hours of waiting, I saw the vivid-green bird on a perfect heart-shaped leaf. Its shimmering feathers reflected a dazzling array of colours. I captured every detail, grateful for this magical moment amid the lush jungle backdrop. Canon EOS R7 with Tamron 100–400mm f/4.5–6.3 lens. 213mm; 1/500s; f/7.1; ISO 400.
Thomas Vijayan, Canada. Category: Best Portrait. Silver Award winner. Before capturing this image, I spent two days observing these penguins, lying flat on the ice to avoid scaring them. Waiting for the chick to appear, I finally got this touching shot of parental love. I trekked eight hours a day on soft snow to reach this colony and even made friends with some penguins. Canon EOS R3 with Canon 100–500mm f/4.5–7.1 lens. 472mm; 1/1,600s; f/7.1; ISO 125.
Jake Levin, United States. Category: Best Portrait. Bronze Award winner. The best place to see Canada Jays for those living in Montreal is across the border in upstate New York. During my winter 2022 visit to Adirondack Park, I focused on capturing this species. This image shows a jay seemingly concerned that the snow is ramping up, and rightly so, as it made driving back home a challenge. Sony A1 with Sony 600mm f/4 G lens and 1.4× teleconverter. 840mm; 1/500s; f/7.1; ISO 1,600.
Mateusz Piesiak, Poland. Category: Birds in the Environment. Gold Award winner. Flooding meant that a field of sunflowers could not be harvested, and thousands of birds, including Greenfinches (Chloris chloris), Goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis) and Bramblings, flocked to it in winter. Despite their colourful plumage making them easy targets, when foraging their colours blend with the surroundings, making them hard for predators to spot. Using a wide- angle lens masked with snow and dried sunflowers, I photographed a flock of Bramblings from their perspective, with one perched in front of my camera. Fujifilm X-T2 with Fujifilm 10–24mm f/4 lens. 10mm; 1/680s; f/11; ISO 1,600.
Clément Cornec, France. Category: Birds in the Environment. Silver Award winner. The Emperor Penguin breeds during winter in Antarctica, the coldest environment on Earth. It endures temperatures as low as -40°C during the long polar nights and 250km/h blizzards. Adaptations allow it to maintain body temperature and conserve energy. Nikon D7100 with Nikon 16–300mm f/3.5–6.3 lens. 52mm; 1/640s; f/13; ISO 100.
Stefan Gerrits, Netherlands. Category: Birds in the Environment. Bronze Award winner. Last winter, I spent considerable time at the Kitka River in Finland photographing White-throated Dippers. The conditions were ideal, with abundant dippers, fresh snow and crystal-clear ice. However, the harsh temperatures, reaching as low as -27°C, were a challenge. I focused on longer-exposure shots, using a 70–200mm lens to capture silky-smooth water in each photo. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon 70–200mm f/2.8 II lens. 200mm; 0.3s; f/16; ISO 100.
Rafael Armada, Spain. Category: Birds in Flight. Gold Award winner. The Sword-billed Hummingbird, common in the Andean forests, has the world’s longest bill relative to its size. This bird’s unique bill, adapted to feed on flowers with long corollas, makes it a vital pollinator, as bees and butterflies can’t reach the nectar and so don’t pollinate these plants. This image captures the bird approaching a feeder, with natural backgrounds and lighting. Canon EOS R5 with Canon 600mm f/4 III lens. 600mm; 1/1,000s; f/4; ISO 5,000.
Paul Mckenzie, Ireland. Category: Birds in Flight. Silver Award winner. This aerial photograph captures a flock of Lesser Flamingos in flight over a vast and concentrated bloom of cyanobacteria (sometimes called blue-green algae), their staple food source. The photo was taken from the open doors of a light aircraft. Canon EOS R5 with Canon 100–500mm f/4.5–7.1 lens. 500mm; 1/4,000s; f/7.1; ISO 400.
Richard Sanchez, Cuba. Category: Birds in Flight. Bronze Award winner. At 10am, a Barn Owl appeared before us and we followed it to a crop field where it began hunting. Nearby, several cooperative Common Nighthawks circled around our vehicle. I captured a perfect shot of them in flight, though it was partly a matter of luck. Nikon D850 with Sigma 150–600mm f/5–6.3 lens. 600mm; 1/2,500s; f/6.3; ISO 500.
Arto Leppänen, Finland. Category: Urban Birds. Gold Award winner. During winter migration, owls from northern Finland often head to the south where they can find more food due to less snow. This Great Grey Owl chose a cemetery with abundant voles as its hunting ground. While hunting, the owl would often stop on tombstones or other structures to observe the area. Keeping a safe distance, I followed the owl and managed to capture a fleeting moment when it landed briefly on a beautiful angel statue. Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon 600mm f/4 lens. 600mm; 1/50s; f/5; ISO 1,600.
Xiaoke Wang, China. Category: Urban Birds. Silver Award winner. From October to March, Shenzhen is a wintering ground for over 100,000 migratory birds. In January 2022, tens of thousands of Great Cormorants were spotted flying over Talent Park, adding to the area’s avian diversity. Canon EOS R5 with Canon 35mm f/1.4 II lens. 35mm; 1/8,000s; f/5; ISO 1,000.
Julian Fernandez Quilez, Spain. Category: Urban Birds. Bronze Award winner. This image features an abandoned farmhouse in my town, with a painting of a woman and a European Stonechat perched on the door. I orientated the door to let the sunrise in and used three flashes to illuminate the painting. It took multiple sessions to achieve the desired effect. Canon EOS 7D Mark II with Canon 70–200mm f/2.8 II lens. 140mm; 1/250s; f/20; ISO 125.
Antonio Aguti, Italy. Category: Comedy Bird Photo. Gold Award winner. The Purple Heron is a migratory bird that nests in the lake basins of the Italian Peninsula and feeds mainly on fish, although it also preys on mice, snakes, toads and other creatures. In this shot, the heron caught a large Crucian Carp (Carassius carassius) and voraciously swallowed it after several attempts to turn the fish onto its side. Sony A1 with Sony 600mm f/4 GM lens. 600mm; 1/4,000s; f/4; ISO 320.
Levi Fitze, Switzerland. Category: Comedy Bird Photo. Silver Award winner. When observing King Penguins, I was struck by how their behaviour sometimes resembles that of humans. This juvenile constantly begged until the annoyed adult walked away. However, the fact that the juvenile was more massive than the adult suggests good parenting overall. Sony A1 with Sony 400mm f/2.8 lens. 400mm; 1/1,250s; f/4; ISO 640.
Ann Gillis, United States. Category: Comedy Bird Photo. Bronze Award winner. A group of Northern Crested Caracaras was gathered around some pieces of chicken that had been placed out for them. This individual was more interested in displaying to all the others while they ate. Sony A1 with Sony 200–600mm f/5.6–6.3 G lens. 600mm; 1/4,000s; f/7.1; ISO 2,000.
Ewan Heath-Flynn, United Kingdom. Category: Conservation (Single Image). Gold Award winner. A Maltese hunter stands proud, having legally shot a European Turtle Dove, a prized quarry on the island. European Union legislation bans the hunting of Turtle Doves in the breeding season. Nevertheless, across the Mediterranean, an estimated 0.34–0.87 million are killed every year. Generations of Maltese have hunted this species on migration; a few continue to hunt and follow tradition. In 2017, Malta introduced a spring hunting moratorium, which left some hunters feeling their ‘traditional’ way of life had been spoilt. Unfortunately, the ban was lifted in 2022, allowing European Turtle Doves to be killed once again. The decision has the potential to dramatically impact and further damage this beautiful bird’s chances of survival and drive it further towards extinction. BirdLife International and their partner BirdLife Malta both condemn the hunting.
Michael Eastwell, United Kingdom. Category: Conservation (Single Image). Silver Award winner. Southern Boobooks, the smallest Australian owl species, are often brought to veterinary hospitals after car accidents. Their large, outward- projecting eyes adapted for low-light hunting make them vulnerable to injury. In this image, Dr Luke Gregory is examining an owl named ‘Rocket’, focusing on the posterior eye, where injuries can be less visible. Sony A1 with Sony 50mm f/1.2 lens. 50mm; 1/250s; f/1.2; ISO 400.
Luca Giordano, Italy. Category: Conservation (Single Image). Bronze Award winner. A young Peregrine Falcon lying dead is being examined at the CRUMA wildlife rescue centre in Livorno, Italy. It had been shot down by a poacher and X-rays revealed lead shot in its body – evidence of how unsafe the migratory routes that cross Italian skies are. Through this photo, I hope to raise awareness of this ongoing issue affecting wild birds in Italy. Nikon D850 with Nikon 24–70mm f/2.8 lens. 24mm; 1/200s; f/2.8; ISO 800.
Yaron Schmid, Israel. Category: Black and White. Silver Award winner. Among Samburu’s most distinctive features are its Doum Palms (Hyphaene thebaica). While moving away from the river, I noticed a Black-headed Heron perched on one of the palm tree branches. I asked the guide to stop and captured a minimalistic image using a smaller lens. Nikon D850 with Nikon 70–200mm f/2.8 lens. 70mm; 1/640s; f/7.1; ISO 560. Harry Sedin, Sweden. Category: 12–14 years. Gold Award winner. In a small inlet in Örnsköldsvik, there are terns everywhere during summer. So, one afternoon on an overcast day, I headed down to the water with the goal of photographing terns in flight. Instead of that, I ended up photographing an Arctic and Common Tern perched together on a railing. By utilising the white of their bodies, the overcast weather and the bright reflections in the water, I captured a high-key image of the two terns. Nikon Coolpix P1000. 324mm; 1/100s; f/8; ISO 200.
Arko Saha, India. Category: 11 and Under. Gold Award winner. Pelling is one of the most beautiful hill stations in India. I observed so many birds when I visited the area. I snapped this very colourful bird in a garden near our hotel. The extremely vibrant blue colour makes this bird so beautiful. Canon EOS 80D with Canon 100–400mm f/4.5–5.6 II lens. 400mm; 1/400s; f/5.6; ISO 500.
Henley Spiers, United Kingdom. Category: Bird Behaviour. Silver Award winner. In early autumn, a sardine shoal at Los Islotes attracted seabird predators. Amid the shoal, I waited patiently for the elusive shot of a Blue-footed Booby rising with a sardine in its beak. Finally, a crash came down close to me, and I instinctively captured the moment. Nikon D850 with Nikon 28–70mm f/3.5–4.5 lens. 28mm; 1/250s; f/13; ISO 500.
Category: Bird Behaviour. Bronze Award winner. A Great Grey Owl adult was hunting in a wheat field, and a juvenile flew to the edge of the field to be fed. Suddenly, the parent caught some prey. I quickly pressed the shutter and captured a heartwarming moment between the parent and the next generation. Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with Canon 400mm f/2.8 II lens. 400mm; 1/2,000s; f/4; ISO 1,000.