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The 2019 Bird Photography Awards Winners

 The Bird Photographer of the Year awards, or BPOTY for short, is the most prestigious bird photography competition in the world, which curates the very best pictures of birds taken every year and awards them under seven different categories: best portrait, birds in the environment, attention to detail, bird behavior, birds in flight, garden and urban birds, and creative imagery. Here are eleven of the most beautiful and colorful birds of this year’s winners with quotes from the photographers explaining how they took the pictures.
 
1. Black Skimmer by Nikunj Patel, Gold Award for birds in flight
Bird photography winners: Black Skimmer by Nikunj Patel, Gold Award for birds in flight
‘Black Skimmers are one of my favorite birds and I love spending time in the summer observing and photographing them. Skimmers have a light and elegant flight, with steady wingbeats. They fly low over water and dip their lower mandible just below the surface, feeling for tiny fish and snapping them up with deadly speed, and making high-speed turns in mid-flight.
On a nice summer evening, I arrived at a colony of nesting seabirds on a beach to photograph Black Skimmers flying in, bringing fish for the new-born chicks. I decided to set up low on the beach as it would give me an eye-level perspective with the birds.
A few skimmers had gathered at the edge of the shoreline and were having a vigorous bathing session. As some of them took off, I saw one flying low and straight towards me. Luckily, I was able to acquire focus, press the shutter and capture a beautiful image of the bird flying straight at me.
Black Skimmers rely on open beaches for nesting and raising their young, with direct access to the water for feeding. Coastal development and our own love of the same beaches have left them with few safe places to nest. The image was captured in the summer of 2018 at Ocean City, New Jersey, USA. The Black Skimmer is an endangered species in the state of New Jersey.’
2. Purple-crowned Fairy by Ivan Sjorgen, Gold Award for bird behavior
Bird photography winners: Purple-crowned Fairy by Ivan Sjorgen, Gold Award for bird behavior
‘Small natural pools deep into the rainforest make a perfect place for hummingbirds to have a quick bath. I was blessed to witness this behavior in Costa Rica early one morning. The birds hover over the water for a little time and then make small dips beneath the surface. I was able to capture the moment as a Purple-crowned Fairy left the water. The idea of using flash to highlight the rocks on the bottom of the water made the water look golden.’
3. Snowy Owl by Chad Larsen, Gold Award for garden and urban birds
Bird photography winners: Snowy Owl by Chad Larsen, Gold Award for garden and urban birds
‘My wife and I had been photographing Snowy Owls for a couple days during the Christmas Holidays in Saskatchewan. On this morning, I returned to the same area and could not believe what I was seeing... an all-white Snowy Owl on a quaint white church! Trying to focus on a white owl set against a very light backdrop proved to be very difficult. However, my biggest challenge was getting into a central position without disturbing this peaceful moment: I knew an opportunity like this might never happen again.’
4. Gulls by Mohammed Khorshed, Gold Award for birds in the environment
Bird photography winners: Gulls by Mohammed Khorshed, Gold Award for birds in the environment
‘Low tide reveals the beauty of the coastal environment. The intertidal zone is also a good feeding area for seabirds, and so a lot of gulls and herons gather because of the abundance of life. I waited for many days to get the perfect combination of elements for the photo I had in mind: still water at low tide, beautiful clouds and of course the birds. I took this photo using a drone and the magic lasted just a short time before the rising tide altered the scene.’
5. Common Kingfisher by Ben Andrew, Silver Award for best portrait
Bird photography winners: Common Kingfisher by Ben Andrew, Silver Award for best portrait
‘This image of a bold young Kingfisher was taken during the winter months. The bird spent time in the middle of a town center, fishing around ornamental water gardens that are surrounded by shops, roads and a car park. The Kingfisher regularly spent time perched on railings waiting to plunge into the water below. This spot was right next to the bus stop, so I positioned myself looking along the railings and waited for a bus to arrive. Luckily the buses in the town are blue in color perfectly matching the Kingfisher’s plumage. So it was just a matter of waiting and hoping a bus came along with its lights on while the bird was sitting there!’
6. Welcome Swallow by Georgina Steytler, Silver Award for birds in flight
Bird photography winners: Welcome Swallow by Georgina Steytler, Silver Award for birds in flight
‘I was at Laratinga Wetlands in South Australia in April 2018. I initially went to photograph waterfowl when I noticed dozens of Welcome Swallows diving about the surface of the water. I am attracted to the challenge of shooting birds in flight and swallows present the ultimate challenge due to their small size and quick, erratic flight. There was a beautiful mist so I decided to shoot backlit against a dark background (trees in shade on opposite bank) and try to capture some of the atmosphere. I used the ‘spray and pray’ approach to photography (i.e. rapid frame rate and loads of pictures) and needed a lot of luck to get this shot.’
7. Great Dusky Swifts by Helen Moore, Bronze Award for birds in the environment
Bird photography winners: Great Dusky Swifts by Helen Moore, Bronze Award for birds in the environment
‘I was travelling in South America last year and visited the Argentinian side of Iguasu Falls. The whole spectacle was more magnificent than I expected. After the hype, so often things are disappointing; but Iguasu was overwhelming. And it was made better still by the Great Dusky Swifts – there were just so many of them. They nest behind the falls and goodness knows how they fledge. But fledge they do, and when I was there adults were repeatedly flying in and out of the cascade feeding young which were clinging to the rocks underneath.’
8. Cattle Egret by William Steel, Bronze Award for best portrait
Bird photography winners: Cattle Egret by William Steel, Bronze Award for best portrait
‘A Southern White Rhino continues grazing unaware of the bounty on its head, as a Western Cattle Egret searches for insects flushed from the grass. This is a truly commensal relationship. The Rhino is indifferent to the presence of the bird, while the egret benefits from the Rhino’s movement and foraging: it unwittingly disturbs insects concealed in the grass. For me, the image is such an emotive depiction: a juxtaposition between dark and light, hope and uncertainty. While the Cattle Egret takes center stage the Rhino can be see fading into the background, indicative of the species’ rapid decline.’
9. Cobalt-winged Parakeets by Liron Gertsman, Bronze Award for birds in flight
Bird photography winners: Cobalt-winged Parakeets by Liron Gertsman, Bronze Award for birds in flight
‘Scattered throughout the Amazon basin are hundreds of clay licks where parrots, parakeets and macaws come to eat clay and neutralize the acidic fruits that they eat. Getting to the clay lick (and watering hole) where I took this photo required a regional flight, a three-hour boat ride upstream, and a short canoe ride to get to base camp. From base camp, it took another short boat ride and a 30 minute hike (a longer hike than usual due to low water levels in July 2017) each day to get to the clay lick.
It took many hours of waiting over three days before we were treated to the sight of hundreds of Cobalt-winged Parakeets raining down on the forest floor. Seeing them and hearing the deafening roar of parakeet chatter was an experience I don’t think I’ll ever forget. After they drank the mineral rich-water and ate some clay, it was over; this photo captures the chaos as the parakeets took to the air, heading back to the canopy. I used a slow shutter speed to convey movement as the birds took to the air.’
10. Reeve’s Pheasants by Hu Yi, Bronze Award for bird behavior
Bird photography winners: Reeve’s Pheasants by Hu Yi, Bronze Award for bird behavior
‘This image shows two male Reeves’s Pheasants, performing an elaborate display that I refer to as their ‘dancing steps’. The behavior is designed to attract the attention of the nearby female. The species is one of the most splendid and attractive of all protected birds in Xinyang City, Henan Province.’
11. Long-tailed Duck by Martin Eschholz, Bronze Award for garden and urban birds
Bird photography winners: Long-tailed Duck by Martin Eschholz, Bronze Award for garden and urban birds
‘White everywhere. That is the first impression when visiting the Varanger Peninsula in the Arctic north of Norway in winter. But a surprisingly amount of color can be found too, especially in the region's various harbors. The port of Vardø is a working fishing harbor attracting several species of wintering sea ducks. One of the most fascinating is the Long-tailed Duck and at first glance it looks too feebly built to survive in the arctic. But the reality is that it can cope perfectly. A bit of extra food like offal from a fish factory comes in handy and that is the reason these birds swim between the harbor's colorful reflections.’

Image source: BPOTY 

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