Flights, fights, and funnies as Bird Photographer of the Year 2023 is awarded

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.
Female Peregrine Falcon protecting her nest from a Brown Pelican. This image won the overall prize in the Bird Photographer of the Year 2023 (Image credit: © Jack Zhi / Bird Photographer of the Year 2023)

The prestigious Bird Photographer of the Year competition this year attracted over 20,000 entries, all hoping for the $6,327 / £5,000 / AU$9,777 grand prize. The winner, announced today, was Jack Zhi, from the USA, who captured a dramatic image of a high-speed chase between a Peregrine Falcon protecting its young from a large Brown Pelican.

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“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.” 

Zhi's winning shot was taken using a Sony A9 II with an FE 600mm f/4 GM OSS supertelephoto. The exposure was 1/4000sec at f/6.3, ISO1000.

Great Grey Owls Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with Canon EF 400mm f/2.8 II lens. 400mm; 1/2,000s; f/4; ISO 1,000 (Image credit: © Qiuqing Mu / Bird Photographer of the Year 2023)

The Bird Behavior category was very competitive too – Qiuqing Mu's lovely owls in 'A Mother's Love', the bronze winner, could easily have won on another day. Mu says "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."

The young winner came from the 15-17 age group. Nikon D3S with Nikon 300mm f/2.8 lens. 300mm; 1/125s; f/2.8; ISO 640 (Image credit: © Anton Trexler / Bird Photographer of the Year)

The competition's Young Bird Photographer of the Year prize is divided into three categories – 11 and under, 12-14, and 15-17 – and this year's overall winner was Anton Trexler of Germany who's silhouetted Blackbird singing in the dead of night conveys atmosphere.

A Maltese hunter stands proud, having legally shot a European Turtle Dove

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. Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon EF 35mm f/2 lens. 35mm; 1/200s; f/8; ISO 800 (Image credit: © Ewan Heath-Flynn / Bird Photographer of the Year)

Bird Photographer of the Year has conservation at its heart. This year the competition made that clear in two ways. Firstly it donated the same amount as the main prize to partner charity Birds on the Brink – which provides vital funding to grass-roots bird conservation projects around the world. Secondly, it has a conservation category, in which some dramatic and challenging images are included like the winning image by Ewan Heath-Flynn of a hunter holding a (legally killed) bird.

“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.”

A heron struggles to eat the large Crucian Carp it has caught – "No Way Out" was the winner of the Comedy Bird Photo prize. Sony A1 with Sony 600mm f/4 GM lens. 600mm; 1/4,000sec; f/4; ISO 320. (Image credit: © Antonio Aguti / Bird Photographer of the Year)

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.

"More Fish Please" is also the message of the category runner up! Sony A1 with Sony 400mm f/2.8 lens. 400mm; 1/1,250s; f/4; ISO 640. (Image credit: © Levi Fitze /Bird Photographer of the Year)

Mercifully there is a lighter side too! The Comedy Bird Photo category is always fun, and this year the top two prize winners had a very fishy theme! Winner Antonio Aguti, of and in Italy and Levi Fitze of Switzerland shooting in the Falklands caught situations with too much and too little fish! 

Glistening-green Tanager portrait. Canon EOS R7 with Tamron 100–400mm f/4.5–6.3 lens. 213mm; 1/500s; f/7.1; ISO 400 (Image credit: © Nicolas Reusens / Bird Photographer of the Year)

The winner of the bird portrait category, Nicolas Reusens of Spain, said of his trip into the tropical Mashpi Amagusa Reserve "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.

The photo of flamingos was taken from the open doors of a light aircraft. Canon EOS R5 with Canon RF 100–500mm f/4.5–7.1 lens. 500mm; 1/4,000s; f/7.1; ISO 400 (Image credit: © Paul Mckenzie / Bird Photographer of the Year)

One thing the categories guarantee is variety. The runner up in 'Bird in Flight', by Paul Mckenzie of Ireland was shot from the open door of a small plane looking down on Lesser Flamingos in flight over a vast and concentrated bloom of blue-green algae (or cyanobacteria), their staple food source. The category winner, incidentally, was chosen as the book cover.

Photographers competed in 8 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.

The 2024 competition is now open for entries at, while publisher William Collins is offering the collection in the form of a hardback coffee-table book which will be available soon in the UK, and in a few months in the USA.

You might be interested in our guide to the best bird feeder cameras and the best cameras for wildlife photography. There's also the debate about using a full frame or cropped sensor for bird photography!

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Adam Juniper
Managing Editor

With over 20 years of expertise as a tech journalist, Adam brings a wealth of knowledge across a vast number of product categories, including timelapse cameras, home security cameras, NVR cameras, photography books, webcams, 3D printers and 3D scanners, borescopes, radar detectors… and, above all, drones. 

Adam is our resident expert on all aspects of camera drones and drone photography, from buying guides on the best choices for aerial photographers of all ability levels to the latest rules and regulations on piloting drones. 

He is the author of a number of books including The Complete Guide to Drones, The Smart Smart Home Handbook, 101 Tips for DSLR Video and The Drone Pilot's Handbook