The finalists for the sixth annual Bird Photographer of the Year (BPOTY) competition have been announced, with over 22,000 images submitted from 73 countries. The finalists are competing for a £5,000 cash prize.
‘This year we saw an incredible 22,000 entries into the competition, with images coming in from all over the world,’ said Will Nicholls, wildlife cameraman and Director at Bird Photographer of the Year.
‘The standard of photography was incredibly high, and the diversity in different species was great to see. Now the judges are going to have a tough time deciding the winner of the competition!’
Brian Matthews, European shag. Is there any food left? In this image, a hungry juvenile Shag literally dives down its mother throat for more fish rather than waiting for it to be fully regurgitated. It was taken on the Farne Islands, one of the most accessible ‘Puffin Islands’ in the UK. A short boat trip from Seahouses in Northumberland drops you into another world of Puffins, Guillemots and ravenous Shags. Spending time with this family I managed to get some great behavioural shots. The Farne Islands aren’t just about Puffins! Canon 1DX with Canon 500mm f/4 lens. 500mm focal length; 1/1,250th second; f/4; ISO 800.
Daniel Zhang, Hamerkop. This photo was taken in Zimanga Private Reserve, South Africa during my summer holiday. I was on a photography trip with my father. Although the toad appeared to be jumping into the hamerkop’s mouth, in reality the bird was throwing its prey into the air in order to kill it. The toad was also dabbed onto the ground several times by the bird’s beak. I felt very excited to have taken this shot. Canon EOS 1DX with Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 II lens. 164mm focal length; 1/800th second; f/ 5; ISO 20,000.
Li Ying Lou, Red-crowned crane. Red-crowned Crane pairs are faithful to one another throughout the year, and even during the winter months they engage in behaviour designed to strengthen the bond. Birds perform dual honking rituals and an elaborate dance, and this is much appreciated by photographers who make the pilgrimage to see them in Japan. In order to capture the mood and convey a sense of the occasion to those looking at this photograph, I rushed to the photographic site at dawn. On my eighth attempt, I finally did photographic justice to the calling birds, with their breath vaporised by the cold air. Canon 1DX Mark ll with Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 II lens and 1.4x teleconverter. 560mm focal length; 1/1,600th; f/8; ISO 1,000.
Øyvind Pedersen, Atlantic puffin. This photo was taken on the bird cliffs of Hornøya Island in Norway, back in April 2018. It shows two Puffins which started a brawl that continued down the snowy slope right in front of me. My goal for this trip was to try to get some images of fighting Puffins on snow and in that regard my quest was a success. I was really lucky and my patience and persistence paid off. These two Puffins battled for several minutes, with feathers and snow flying everywhere. It was a fantastic experience – for me, if not for the Puffins. Nikon D500 with Nikon 500mm f/4 lens. 500mm focal length; 1/2,000th second; f/5.6; ISO 800.
Daniela Anger, Red-billed oxpecker. In the South Luangwa National Park you can watch a Hippo colony from a water-level hide. In addition to their human admirers, the water-loving mammals also receive a lot of attention from the local Red-billed Oxpeckers who seek a close encounter for more practical reasons. The birds and the Hippos have evolved a symbiotic relationship: the oxpeckers feed on external parasites and the Hippos benefit from the hygienic makeover. This image shows two oxpeckers sitting on a very relaxed Hippo: all parties seem entirely comfortable with the relationship. Canon 5D Mark IV with Canon 500mm f/4 II lens and 1.4x teleconverter. 700mm focal length; 1/800th second; f/5.6; ISO 160.
Gail Bisson, Fiery-throated Hummingbird. We stopped for lunch at a lodge in Costa Rica, one whose restaurant had multiple hummingbird feeders located throughout the property. The feeders, which are filled with sugary water, attract more than just hummingbirds and are also a magnet for insects. On this particular occasion, a Fiery-throated Hummingbird was resting on a perch a few feet away from the feeders when a wasp approached and landed on him. Disconcerted by the interest shown by the insect, the brief encounter generated a lot of chattering from the Fiery-throated Hummingbird but eventually both flew off unharmed. Canon 1DX Mark III with Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 II lens. 349mm focal length; 1/1,600th second; f/6.3; ISO 1,600.
Tom Schandy, Gentoo penguin. Gentoo Penguins began surfing long before the first humans latched on to this craze. This image was taken at Carcass Island on the Falkland Islands, where the birds have no option but to surf if they want to get ashore. If the waves are a decent size, you can see the birds ride or surf on the top of them. It is a thrilling behaviour to watch, and a rewarding one to capture photographically. Canon 1DX Mark II, Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 II lens. 400mm focal length; 1/4,000th second; f/ 5.6; ISO 400.
Mark Sisson, Southern rockhopper penguin. Southern Rockhopper Penguins are among the most resilient birds I have spent any time with and watching their exploits, as they return from fishing expeditions to take over nesting duties, is alarming and awe-inspiring in equal measure. On this particular evening at one of their colonies in the Falkland islands, I had tentatively made my way down cliffs whose ascent and descent the birds made look so easy, and awaited the returning birds. I knew that preening was always the first priority on reaching the safety of land and given the orientation of the site that a silhouette image might be possible. I stopped-down my aperture to help highlight the subtle lens flare on this bird as it stoof on a rock. As the penguin bent over in the course of preening, it seemed as if he was bowing to the sun itself. Canon 1DX Mark II with Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 II lens. 227mm focal length; 1/8,000th second; f/22; ISO 800.
Diana Schmies, Mute swan. Mute Swans typically don’t breed until they are at least three years old. But it is not uncommon for elements of courtship behaviour to be seen earlier, as happened with this couple. Apparently not concerned by the age difference, this adult male was intent on wooing an immature female, and his interest appeared to be reciprocated. Classic courtship rituals were performed, like raising the necks and turning their heads sideways while keeping their breasts pressed against each other. Even though photographing these displaying swans on a misty morning required planning, a little luck was also needed when it came to the birds aligning parallel to my camera. Nikon D500 with Nikon 200-500mm f/5.6 lens. 290mm focal length; 1/800th second; f/6.3; ISO 400.
Scott Suriano, Great grey owl. While exploring the Northwoods of Minnesota, I found myself caught in a sudden heavy snow squall. Thinking that this weather episode might deter the Great Grey Owls from hunting, I considered packing it up and calling it a day. To my surprise, however, this particular owl took to the skies and began scanning the meadow for its next meal. With a sudden and acrobatic downward turn, it sliced through the heavy white flakes and crashed head first into the snow-blanketed field below. Within moments, I watched as it launched off into the distance with its freshly caught vole. It was a great reminder that to be successful you have to sometimes fully commit and dive in head first into the unknown. Canon 1DX Mark II with Canon 400mm f/2.8 lens and 1.4x teleconverter. 560mm focal length; 1/1,250th second; f/4; ISO 1,250.
Irene Waring, Long-tailed tit. Taken at Lake Kussharo, this image shows a northern race Longtailed Tit drinking in a most unusual fashion – it was taking water that was dripping from icicles hanging from tree branches near the shore. The sun had begun to melt the surface of the icicles, giving the birds access to water in the freezing conditions. Some birds clung to the branches, or the icicle itself, reaching out to drink. Others, however, flew in and hovered, taking droplets from the end. It was fascinating to watch and difficult to photograph, requiring a long lens used at an awkward upward angle. Canon 1D Mark IV with Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 II lens and 1.4x teleconverter. 560mm focal length; 1/3,200th second; f/8; ISO 800.
Fahad Alenezi, White-tailed sea-eagle. In winter, food for most animals is in short supply in northern latitudes and many species, including this Red Fox, take greater risks than they would normally do to survive. In this photo a particularly bold fox has ventured close to an area where eagles were feeding. One Whitetailed Sea-eagle took exception to the incursion and gave the fox what looks like a good slap with its wings. That’s an encounter I imagine the fox will never forget. Canon 1DX Mark II with Canon 600mm f/4 III lens. 600mm focal length; 1/3,200th second; f/8; ISO 800.
Raymond Hennessy, Black-and-white warbler. Backlit by dawn light, the breath of this Black-and-White Warbler shows the subtle colours of the rainbow as it drifts off in the cold morning air. I noticed a small shaft of sunlight shining in the forest in an area frequented by this warbler. With an image in mind, I devoted time to my quest, in the hope the bird might land in the right spot. When it did and it sang I was so happy! Nikon D4S with Nikon 500mm f/4 lens. 500mm focal length; 1/500th second; f/4; ISO 800.
Brad James, Tufted duck. It’s always a pleasure when you are able to capture both male and female of the same species in one image. I often find it tricky with waterfowl as they tend to overlap in some way. Consequently, I was very pleased when this scene lined up perfectly, with the drake framed and referenced by the out of focus duck in the background. To obtain this image I lay motionless on the edge of the pond, practically at water level. Nikon D850 with Nikon 500mm f/4 lens. 500mm focal length; 1/320th second; f/5.6; ISO 720.
Amanda Cook, Eurasian jackdaw. It was an enchanting morning in May and I felt as though this Jackdaw and Fallow Deer were part of some childhood fairytale with the bird whispering a secret to the deer. In reality, the narrative was more ordinary and the Jackdaw was pinching hair from the deer’s back to use in nest building. I often go into Bushy Park at dawn and on this occasion it was wonderful to capture the uninhibited and natural interaction between these two creatures. Nikon D850 with Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 lens. 240mm focal length; 1/200th second; f/5.6; ISO 320.
Andy Parkinson, Mute swan. Over the years I have developed a bond of trust with a group of Mute Swans and on this occasion it paid dividends. This trusting relationship allowed me to capture this most intimate perspective: an infant cygnet resting its head peacefully on its sleeping mother. The female swan trusted me implicitly to stand this close and my accepted presence caused her not the slightest concern. Nikon D4S with Nikon 80-200mm f/2.8 lens. 120mm focal length; 1/500th second; f/14; ISO 3,200.
Zdeněk Jakl, Mallard duck. I took the photograph on a pond in a beautiful park in a quiet part of the city of Prague. As a family of Mallard ducklings swam past me, one of them began to chase a flying fly. It highlighted the fact that the instinct to feed is a powerful force even in the young, but of course the behaviour itself was comical from a human perspective. Regardless of how you view what’s going on, it certainly makes for an interesting photograph and a moment in time in a duckling’s life captured for posterity. Nikon Z 6 with Sigma 500mm f/4 Sport lens. 500mm focal length; 1/1,600th second; f/5.6; ISO 500.
James Wilcox, American Oystercatcher. My favourite time of year is when the American Oystercatcher chicks hatch. I love getting to the beach at sunrise to watch and photograph family interactions. This young oystercatcher is old enough to forage but still relies on its parents for food because its beak hasn’t developed the strength to open the shells of molluscs and crustaceans. This shot was taken in between waves, with the wet sand providing a bit of uplighting. Nikon D850 with Nikon 600mm f/4 lens and 1.7x teleconverter. 1,000mm focal length; 1/1,250th second; f/8; ISO 400.
Mark Williams Eurasian nuthatch This Nuthatch was photographed in my garden using rearcurtain flash synchronisation. I attract birds to my garden using feeders and peanuts are the food that Nuthatches cannot resist. The timing and method of capture were crucial to the success of this image. The initial exposure captured the movement of the bird while the flash, fired at the end of the exposure, freezes the bird in flight. Canon 5D Mark III with Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 lens and Godox AD200 strobes. 285mm focal length; 1/15th second; f/16; ISO 100.
Taku Ono Hooded crane When I arrived at a well-known wintering haunt of Hooded Cranes in Japan it was disappointingly overcast. And what’s more I was about to go home. However, I realized that an area of the clouds was gradually dissipating as the sun rose, and I decided to stay a while – just in case. Almost miraculously, a streak of sunlight shone through and highlighted a small group of flying cranes. I thanked the cranes, beloved by Japanese people as “the bird of happiness”, for bringing me this good luck! Canon 7D with Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 II lens. 400mm focal length; 1/250th second; f/5.6; ISO 100.
Eirik Grønningsæter Southern giant petrel Southern Giant Petrels happily scavenge on dead seals or penguins or any other dead animal. Generally, they are opportunistic birds although they will sometimes also kill the birds themselves – even adult King Penguin, the carcass in this picture. The petrels are not afraid of people and so I carefully placed my camera inside the carcass of the penguin and waited for the bird to start eating. When it comes to food and feeding, Southern Giant Petrels are possessive birds, and this one is stretching its wings to ward off other petrels in the neighbourhood. Olympus E-PL5 with Lumix 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye. 8mm focal length; 1/1,600th second; f/5; ISO 800.
The competition also provides financial help for grassroots conservation projects through its charity partner Birds on the Brink.
The winner will be announced on September 1st. You can view all the finalist images on the