Stunning Images Focus on Birds at Their Finest

This story is part of Treehugger's news archive. Learn more about our news archiving process or read our latest news.
American flamingos (Phoenicopterus ruber). (Photo: Pedro Jarque Krebs/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

Whether their subjects are soaring high above the horizon or swimming leisurely through a lake, these intimate photos show a variety of birds in a kaleidoscope of colors, marking this year's winners of the Bird Photographer of the Year photo competition.

The competition allows professional and amateur photographers from around the world to submit photos in eight categories: portfolio, portrait, birds in the environment, attention to detail, bird behavior, birds in flight, garden and urban birds, creative imagery, and young photographer.

"Here is evidence of our great love of birds. You can sense the ambition, see the dedication and feel the passion of the men, women and children who have striven to capture the unparalleled wonder of nature in these images," says Chris Packham, president of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and one of this year's judges.

The competition raises funds for the BTO to support that organization's conservation work.

"This competition, with its stunning images, really captures the joy and beauty of birds. The photographers, whose wonderful images feature in the book, engage with birds in ways that parallel those of BTO members and supporters," says Andy Clements, CEO of BTO. "All of us are inspired by birds, and through doing so we are inspired to care about them and what happens to their populations. The money raised for BTO allows us to both inspire others, as we have done through BTO Bird Camp, and to collect the evidence that is needed to inform conservation action."

This year's grand prize winner is Pedro Jarque Krebs, honored for his intense photo of American flamingos arguing at a sanctuary in Madrid. He whimsically calls the image "Black Friday" because "it reminds me of shopping squabbles that take place on that infamous day."

Competition organizer Rob Read says it took a powerful image to win overall. "'Black Friday' is an image which is nothing short of explosive; it made an instant and lasting impression on a panel of judges who are determined to push the boundaries of perceived convention. This is photographic punk rock."

You can see the other category winners below.

Best Portfolio winner (four images)

Roseate spoonbill (Platalea ajaja). (Photo: Petr Bambousek/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"Roseate spoonbills are among the most beautiful wading birds in Florida. I found a place where several were looking after their feathers. I left my car and walked to a spot where I could get as low as possible at the edge of the lagoon. The birds were calm and I managed to obtain some nice shots in the late-afternoon light. After preening, the spoonbills shake their bodies and make some funny poses. This moment is captured in the picture." — Petr Bambousek

Northern gannet (Moras bassanus). (Photo: Petr Bambousek/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"Northern gannets breed in large colonies on the island of Heligoland and are very accessible to the photographer. I spent several days near the colony observing and photographing their behavior. To take some pictures of flying birds, I followed several of them repeatedly with my camera and lens. Once I learned the rhythm of their flight, I was able to capture some shots at sunset. This picture meets all my wishes." — Petr Bambousek

Common crane (Grus grus). (Photo: Petr Bambousek/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"I experienced a bout of very bad weather during a visit to Lake Hornborga in Sweden, famous for its large gathering of common cranes in the early spring. I used the low light caused by the cloudy weather to experiment with long shutter speeds and panning techniques." — Petr Bambousek

Anhinga (Anhinga anhinga). (Photo: Petr Bambousek/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"During a trip to the Pantanal region of Brazil, I was in a boat when I noticed a hunting anhinga. Sensing an opportunity, I asked the boatman to slow down and position the boat so that the bird would be backlit. Then it was just a question of waiting for the anhinga to lift its head to get the composition I wanted." — Petr Bambousek

Young Bird Photographer of the Year winner

Great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus). (Photo: Johan Carlberg/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"It was a beautiful early morning at the end of May in Stockholm, Sweden, where I live. The day before I took this picture, I realized that the best place for taking photos in the lake — which has several pairs of breeding great crested grebes — was from the west side. That meant a backlit sunrise for me! So, I set my alarm for 3 a.m., took my bike and went off. When I arrived at the lake where I had planned to lie down and photograph, I was pleasantly surprised by how beautiful it was — in fact, much better than I had expected. Swans, grebes and mallards were everywhere! What really caught my attention, though, were the great crested grebes, with their graceful and interesting behavior, and with the best light that nature can offer. It was truly a glorious moment." — Johan Carlberg

Best Portrait category — Gold

Red-necked phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus). (Photo: Saverio Gatto/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

Best Portrait category — Silver

Common snipe (Gallinago gallinago). (Photo: Roelof Molenaar/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"I was photographing common snipe in one of the polders in Holland. This bird is showing its threat posture, which in this case was caused by a buzzard flying over. Just at that moment I was able to take the photograph with beautiful evening back-light. The photo was taken while lying in a self-made hide." — Roelof Molenaar

Best Portrait category — Bronze

Grey heron (Ardea cinerea). (Photo: Ivan Sjögren/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"These grey herons have become celebrities in the birding world. They are a part of a very special population that chooses to stay in their breeding grounds all year round, one of the northernmost locations in the world where grey herons choose to do that. And this means facing winters that get temperatures down to around minus 20 degrees Celsius. They survive in this urban lake called Råstasjön thanks to a small water pump that keeps a very small area of water moving through the winter. They are also fed fish weekly by local people that formed a very special relationship with these birds. I took this image on a day where I chose to head out even though the weather forecast said heavy snowfall. I wanted to portray the conditions in which these birds chose to stay. The snow was falling very rapidly which made it hard for me to get an image where single snowflakes where visible. Also the relatively dark heron stood out as almost a silhouette against the bright background. I found a solution to one of my problems when a street lamp suddenly turned on because the light was fading. The heron that stood below got slightly lit by the lamp which reduced the contrast and I waited for a moment when the wind gave up to let the snow fall." — Ivan Sjögren

Birds in the Environment category — Gold

Common ostrich (Struthio camelus). (Photo: Salvador Colvée/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"I was walking through the dunes of the Namib-Naukfluft National Park in Namibia, looking for oryx in its habitat when, in the distance, I saw this common ostrich isolated in a ‘sea' of dunes. I was impressed by how far it was from a potential feeding or drinking area! I decided to take the picture of it in this harsh environment in such an isolated place. This is the result of the bird caught between the light and shades of the dunes." — Salvador Colvée

Birds in the Environment category — Silver

Ruddy turnstone (Arenaria interpres). (Photo: Mario Suárez Porras/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"Many shorebirds regularly stop at Gijon beach in Northern Spain during their migratory flight. They become accustomed to the daily bathers at the beach, and are very confiding, letting you get near enough to photograph them closely. As the tide was coming in, I looked for a good place on the rocks and waited for the right wave to generate the spray I wanted. Among the splashes it's possible to see four kinds of shorebirds: mainly turnstones, but also purple sandpipers, sanderlings and dunlins." — Mario Suárez Porras

Birds in the Environment category — Bronze

Hyacinth macaw (Anodorhynchus hyacinthinus). (Photo: Petr Bambousek/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

Attention to Detail category — Gold

Western crowned pigeon (Goura cristata). (Photo: David Easton/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"This was taken at Singapore’s Jurong Bird Park, in the open enclosure that western crowned pigeons share with a variety of tropical canopy birds. I wanted to capture the bright sun illuminating the crown of feathers, but had to wait a while until the pigeon turned its head in such a way that they really stood out. The birds are quite jumpy, so a fast shutter speed was required, which also meant a higher ISO at this longer focal length. Living in Singapore is what made me want to photograph birds. Beautiful tropical species are easily found — although not so easily photographed!" — David Easton

Attention to Detail category — Silver

Common starling (Sturnus vulgaris). (Photo: Alan Price/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"Starlings are one of the most colourful birds in the U.K., and have very distinctive feather detail. I decided to focus on the head and give an abstract image. To get close enough to the subject I had to construct a feeding station several feet from a hide." — Alan Price

Attention to Detail category — Bronze

Atlantic puffin (Fratercula arctica). (Photo: Mario Suárez Porras/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"The island of Skomer off the south coast of Wales is a real sanctuary for birds, housing one of the most important colonies of puffins in U.K. Last summer I visited the island on a rainy day, and I thought I would try some intimate portraits of puffins in the rain. Lying down on the ground and crawling close to a puffin allowed a low, intimate angle. As the rain got heavier, I was in the position I wanted with a good background for the picture. The raindrops collected on the bird’s plumage; I was lucky it did not shake before I took this image, as the small droplets of water give an extra dimension to the portrait." — Mario Suárez Porras

Bird Behavior category — Gold

Northern gannet (Moras bassanus). (Photo: Richard Shucksmith/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"This day I was out with a friend on his boat taking still images for 'Scotland: The Big Picture' and was using a large, specially made dome port for half-in, half-out shots at sea. But there was still quite a bit of swell, which was proving a challenge. Northern gannets hunt pelagic fish like mackerel and herring by diving into the sea from a height of up to 30 meters, achieving speeds up to 100 kph on impact. These days, they often feed on fishery discards, and with a discard ban introduced two years ago across Europe, they may be affected. The northern gannets in this image were, however, feeding on discarded fish." — Richard Shucksmith

Bird Behavior category — Silver

Cabot's tern (Thalasseus acuflavidus). (Photo: Petr Bambousek/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"In a busy, active Cabot’s tern colony, many fascinating phases of courtship can be witnessed. Depicted in this image is the final phase, just before mating occurred. I spent two hours lying on the ground in the midst of the colony enjoying the bustling colony life." — Petr Bambousek

Bird Behavior category — Bronze

Black skimmer (Rynchops niger). (Photo: Thomas Chadwick/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"I have been photographing a little-known black skimmer colony for years and this is my favorite photo taken in all that time. Every year I select a nest when the parents are sitting on eggs, and then follow that same nest until the young fledge. I choose one nest because colonies are chaotic; you will miss some shots by pointing the lens at hundreds of birds. At this nest, another chick hatched a day or so before the one depicted. Because of the time advantage, the older chick typically bullied the younger one by always eating first, stealing meals and pecking it until it left the shade cast by the parent. To get out of the Florida heat, the chick often used the shadow I cast from lying down near the parent. I got into position one hour prior to sunrise and lay there for another hour, then a parent flew in directly to the smaller chick and fed it first. It was inches away from me, so I could not get the feeding photo. However, after the chick had gobbled down the fish, I captured it running up to the parent and displaying the behavior pictured." — Thomas Chadwick

Birds in Flight category — Gold

Little egret (Egretta garzetta). (Photo: Sienna Anderson/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"I visit Hersey Nature Reserve most days and on this one particular Monday I startled a little egret as I arrived. I noted it mainly because it startled me as much as I did it, and because it was in a fairly unusual place for them to feed. I visited again on the Thursday, this time remembering the egret might be there — and it was. I managed to get a few shots of it taking flight and realized how stunning the photos looked with the almost black background. The following day, I visited in the late afternoon because I thought the light would be amazing. I managed to get three single shots, 'Freedom' being the one I was hoping for. I had a vision but when I saw the photo on my screen I was absolutely delighted." — Sienna Anderson

Birds in Flight category — Silver

Northern fulmar (Fulmarus glacialis). (Photo: Marc Weber/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"This picture shows a fulmar flying in front of a waterfall. With the reflection of light through the drops of water, it feels as if it is crossing a rainbow. I noticed that fulmar nest near the Skogafoss waterfall (Iceland). I waited for the light to show a rainbow in the waterfall and 'prayed' that a bird would pass through the right place. It's already not so easy to focus on a bird in flight, so when it's surrounded by thousands of drops of water, it's a real challenge." — Marc Weber

Birds in Flight category — Bronze

Northern wren (Troglodytes troglodytes). (Photo: Roelof Molenaar/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"In winter, northern wrens are always present near my hide. While following them, I saw that they always took the same route. This made it possible to photograph this tiny bird while it flew toward a small island in the water. The image was taken early in the morning when the light was still delightfully soft." — Roelof Molenaar

Garden and Urban Birds category — Gold

European robin (Erithacus rubecula). (Photo: Nikos Bukas/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"A long time ago I had noticed that the plowed soil attracts the robins during the winter, as there they could feed on worms and invertebrates that were appeared on the turned-over soil. So, this February while I was turning over the soil of a small field in my village, Ekklisoxori, in northwest Greece, I had two goals in my mind: to prepare the earth for the new crop of potatoes, and to set up there my hide in order to photograph the robins that would appear, hoping to find an easy prey. The image that I had in my mind included a forgotten pitchfork, the element of the human’s presence in the photo, and a robin that was trying to snatch a worm. But in order to have focused both the robin and the farming tool, I had only to transfer an appeared worm to the right position, next to the tool. The selection of the worm wasn’t also accidental. I needed a worm of which a small part of its body would be hidden in a piece of soil, so to have the chance of taking a shot of the robin while it was trying to unearth its prey." — Nikos Bukas

Garden and Urban Birds category — Silver

Bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica). (Photo: Mario Suárez Porras/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"This image shows a bar-tailed godwit probing for food in the late evening at my local beach, in the city of Gijón, northern Spain. This beach is a good place for the shorebird migration and the birds always give you good opportunities. That evening I was about to go home when I noticed the city street lamps at the back come on. I tried to look for some 'flares' to show the bird in an urbanized context." — Mario Suárez Porras

Garden and Urban Birds category — Bronze

Silver gull (Chroicocephalus novaehollandiae). (Photo: Kevin Sawford/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"During a visit to Sydney, I visited the Opera House and surrounding area on a couple of evenings. There are plenty of silver gulls in the area, which are on the lookout for scrapes of food at the many restaurants. They would line up on the harbor wall and I had this image in mind with the Opera House as the backdrop." — Kevin Sawford

Creative Imagery category — Silver

Greater flamingo (Phoenicopterus roseus). (Photo: Fahad Alenezi/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"Greater flamingos are present year-round in Kuwait, although they move north in March to nest. When breeding has finished, they move south again and at this time they gather in big numbers. There was a small group of them walking together in a shape of a crescent and this got my attention. I used my drone to take this beautiful shot of them." — Fahad Alenezi

Creative Imagery category — Bronze

Adelie penguin (Pygoscelis adeliae). (Photo: Martin Grace/Bird Photographer of the Year 2018)

"The original image for 'Planet Adelie One' was taken on a photographic trip to the Antarctic Peninsula. While transferring from the cruise ship to Paulet Island, I photographed six Adelie penguins standing on a small iceberg. It did not take me long to realize that 'planetizing' the image would produce a much stronger environmental statement, illustrating perfectly the likely ultimate effect of climate change on polar species. Adelie penguins occur only in Antarctica and are therefore at particular risk from loss of habitat as the polar ice contracts. Eventually, they will be left with literally nowhere to go." — Martin Grace

The Bird Photographer of the Year is open for entries for next year's competition, and photos can be submitted until Nov. 30.