The finalists of the 2022 Bird Photographer of the Year competition

From a ‘dancing’ penguin to an owl having a health check: Stunning finalists in the 2022 Bird Photographer of the Year competition

  • The annual Bird Photographer of the Year contest celebrates ‘avian beauty and diversity’ around the world
  • More than 20,000 images captured by photographers from 115 countries have been submitted this year
  • The winners will be announced on September 8, with the Bird Photographer of the Year taking home £5,000

A gentoo penguin ‘dancing’ in the sunset, a great blue heron preying on a vole and a hummingbird feeding her nest of newborn chicks.

Photographs of these spectacular scenes have been named as finalists in the Bird Photographer of the Year 2022 contest, an annual award that celebrates ‘avian beauty and diversity’.

More than 20,000 images captured by photographers from 115 different countries have been submitted to the awards this year, with the overall winner primed to take home a £5,000 cash prize.

Will Nicholls, wildlife cameraman and Director at Bird Photographer of the Year, says: ‘We’ve seen stunning images this 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.’

The contest’s overall winner will be announced on September 8, with the winning images travelling around the world in a touring exhibition. Scroll down for a peek at some of the eye-opening pictures that are in the running…

This heartwarming shot – a finalist in the Conversation Award – shows a volunteer from the Manitoba Burrowing Owl Recovery Program tending to a burrowing owl in the central Canadian province of Manitoba. Canadian photographer Walter Potrebka reveals that he spent 2021 documenting the work of the recovery program, which ‘involves the reintroduction of owl pairs and young, wild owl surveys, habitat improvement and community engagement’. Potrebka explains: ‘Owls are reintroduced every breeding season, with cooperation from private landowners. Despite these efforts, in the past ten years, fewer than ten nesting pairs of wild burrowing owls have been recorded in Manitoba.’ He adds: ‘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!’

Showing a face-off between an upland buzzard and a corsac fox, this incredible photograph – a finalist in the Bird Behaviour category – was taken on the grasslands of the East Ujimqin Banner, an area in the northeast of Inner Mongolia. According to Chinese photographer Baozhu Wang, who was behind the lens, both the upland buzzard and the corsac fox are ‘top predators in this grassy environment and share a diet that comprises mainly small rodents’. Wang explains: ‘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.’ Wang also reveals what happened after the click of the shutter. ‘In this instance, the upland buzzard decided to relinquish its food and fly away,’ Wang explains

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LEFT: ‘In the light of the setting sun, this penguin almost looked as if it were dancing.’ So says British photographer Audrey Wooller of this adorable picture, which shows a gentoo penguin on Sea Lion Island in the Falkland Islands. Wooller continues: ‘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.’ The shot has been selected as a finalist in the Best Portrait category. RIGHT: ‘Wart Head’ is the title given to this photograph, which is a finalist in the Best Portrait category. It shows an ocellated turkey on the grounds of Chan Chich Lodge, a conservation lodge and reserve in northern Belize. Austrian photographer Leander Khil says: ‘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.’ Khil adds that the turkey made ‘eye contact’ with him when he captured the shot

U.S photographer Glenn Nelson snared this jarring shot, which shows a great blue heron snatching up a vole from the ground in the Skagit Valley region in Washington State. Recalling the day he captured the photo, Nelson explains: ‘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.’ He adds: ‘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.’ The photograph is a contender in the Bird Behaviour category

This dynamic shot, captured in the bay of Gold Harbour on the island of South Georgia, was snared by photographer Ben Cranke. ‘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,’ the South African photographer says of the picture, which is running for a prize in the Best Portrait category. Cranke continues: ‘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’ 

A tussle between two Eurasian spoonbills in Hortobagy National Park, a park that spans 800 km sq (308 sq miles) in eastern Hungary, is the subject of this amazing photograph. Armed with his camera, Hungarian photographer Gabor Baross was waiting at a small pond in the park when a group of Eurasian spoonbills landed beside him. ‘It was immediately noticeable that there was an aggressor among them, a bird that had very strong territorial instincts… 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.’ Baross continues: ‘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.’ The picture is in with a chance of winning in the Bird Behaviour category

This adorable shot of an Anna’s hummingbird nest was captured in Vancouver by Canadian photographer Liron Gertsman. The picture was taken in Gerstman’s local park during the Covid pandemic. He says: ‘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.’ Describing the moment he secured this particular shot – which is a finalist in the Bird Behaviour category – he says: ‘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’

The Laguna Seca Ranch, a family-owned bird photography ranch near the city of Edinburg, Texas, is the backdrop for this fascinating picture of a pair of crested caracaras. It was captured by U.S photographer Marti Phillips, who says: ‘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.’ The photograph, titled ‘Head Over Heels In Love’, is a finalist in the Bird Behaviour category

Malaysian photographer Weng Keong Liew was behind the lens for this colourful shot, which shows a black-and-yellow broadbill in Selangor, a state on the west coast of Malaysia. ‘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 photographer explains, adding: ‘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.’ The picture is a contender in the Best Portrait category

Finnmark, a county in northern Norway, was the setting for this powerful shot of two spotted redshanks caught in a fight. Recalling the build-up to the shot, Norwegian photographer Erlend Haarberg says: ‘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.’ He goes on: ‘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.’ Haarberg says that the above photograph – which is a finalist in the Bird Behaviour category – captured the most ‘impressive’ battle he witnessed between birds

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