The Bird Photographer Of The Year (BPOTY) organization has released a selection of finalists in the running to win the 2021 competition.
The image above shows a fascinating interaction: In winter, food for most animals is in short supply in northern latitudes and many species, including this red fox, take greater risks than normal to survive.
In the 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.
The contest and prizes
BPOTY celebrates the world’s best bird photography, while supporting conservation efforts through imagery and financial support.
The overall winner of the competition takes home a £5,000 cash prize alongside the coveted title of Bird Photographer of the Year.
More than 22,000 images from 73 different countries were submitted to the Bird Photographer of the Year 2021 competition.
This selection is a sneak preview of what’s still to come, the winners to be announced on the September 21, 2021.
“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!”
Now in its sixth year, the competition continues to be a supporter of conservation efforts by providing financial help for grassroots conservation projects through its charity partner, Birds on the Brink.
“My favorite time of year is when the American oystercatcher chicks hatch,” explains the photographer of the image above.
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 mollusks and crustaceans. This shot was taken between waves, with the wet sand providing a bit of uplighting.
A hungry juvenile shag literally dives down its mother’s throat for more fish rather than waiting for it to be fully regurgitated.
The photo was taken on the Farne Islands, among the most accessible of the U.K’s ‘Puffin Islands’. The Farne Islands aren’t just about Puffins: A short boat trip from Seahouses in Northumberland drops one into another world of guillemots and ravenous shags, too.
The Emperor penguin is the tallest and heaviest of its kind and is endemic to Antarctica.
These flightless birds breed in the winter and after a courtship lasting several weeks, the female lays a single egg then leaves. Each penguin egg’s father balances it on his feet and covers it with his brood pouch, a warm layer of feathered skin designed to keep the egg cozy.
The males stand for about 65 days, through icy temperatures, cruel winds and blinding storms. After about two months, the females return from the sea, bringing food which they regurgitate to feed the now-hatched chicks.
The males eagerly leave for their own sea-fishing session and the mothers take charge of parental care.
As the young penguins grow, adults leave them in groups called crèches while they go off to fish. Five years later, if they survive their time at sea, those young penguins will return to become parents themselves.
There is a reason for the timing of Emperor penguins’ hatching: By December, when the Antarctic weather has warmed somewhat, the ice the penguins occupy begins to break up, bringing open waters closer to the nesting sites.
To take this image, the photographer lay flat on the ground because objects lower than penguin height are less intimidating to the birds.
Red-crowned crane pairs are faithful to one another throughout the year and even during the winter months they engage in behavior designed to strengthen their bond.
Birds perform dual honking rituals and an elaborate dance, a behavior very 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, the photographer took the image at dawn as their breath vaporized by the cold air.
Taken at Lake Kussharo, Japan, this image shows a northern race longtailed tit drinking in a most unusual fashion: taking water 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.
In South Luangwa National Park, one can watch red-billed oxpeckers as they survey a hippo colony from a water-level hide.
The water-loving mammals receive considerable attention from the local red-billed oxpeckers that seek close encounter for very 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 with all parties entirely comfortable with the relationship.
Gentoo Penguins began surfing long before the first humans latched on to this craze.
This image was taken at Carcass Island in the Falkland Islands, where the birds have no option but to surf if they want to get ashore.
If the waves are large enough, one can see the birds ride or surf on the top of them. It’s thrilling to watch and rewarding to capture photographically.
This Eurasian jackdaw on top of a fallow deer seem to be 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.
Southern giant petrels happily scavenge on dead seals or penguins or any other dead animal.
Generally, they’re opportunistic birds, although sometimes they also will kill the birds themselves — even adult King penguins like 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,” the photographer explains. “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 neighborhood.”