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Bird Photographer of the Year 2021 winners announced

Posted on Sep 1, 2021

Image credit: Kevin Morgans/Bird Photographer of the Year

The winners of this prestigious international photography competition have just been unveiled

This year, the Bird Photographer of the Year competition received over 22,000 image entries from photographers all over the world. There were eight main categories to compete in: Best Portrait, Birds in the Environment, Attention to Detail, Bird Behaviour, Birds in Flight, Black and White, Urban Birds, and Creative Imagery – as well as a Conservation Award and a Portfolio Award up for grabs. All of the photographers likely had their eyes on the grand prize of being crowned Bird Photographer of the Year, however; and with £5000 at stake, it’s no wonder.

The talented recipient of this year’s grand prize turned out to be Mexican photographer Alejandro Prieto, whose poignant image of a roadrunner – taken at the USA-Mexico border wall – proved a standout shot.

“Prieto’s image immediately caught the attention of the judges,” says Will Nicholls, director of Bird Photographer of the Year. “It is not your typical bird photo, and the story behind the image is so strong. The roadrunner appears so vulnerable facing up to the huge border wall that dominates the frame.”

Image credit: Alejandro Prieto/Bird Photographer of the Year

The subject speaks to a wider cultural context, capturing a pivotal moment in our political history while retaining a sense of simplicity

It’s a somewhat unusual composition to claim the top spot, but the subject speaks to a wider cultural context, capturing a pivotal moment in our political history while retaining a sense of simplicity. The USA-Mexico border wall itself poses a real threat to biodiversity in the area, physically blocking crucial migration routes for animals, and presenting a significant issue in terms of habitat fragmentation.

“The border wall crosses deserts, mountains, and even mangroves. It is not just desert, and is in fact very biodiverse with more than 1,500 animal and plants species threatened by the wall,” says Prieto. “I have watched many different animals reach the wall before turning around and heading back.”

In addition to the grand prize, there was also a separate award for the best Young Bird Photographer of the Year, which this year was given to 17-year-old Swiss photographer Levi Fitze, for his image of a black grouse lekking at sunrise. 

Image credit: Levi Fitze/Bird Photographer of the Year

All of the awarded images have now been collated in a hardback coffee table book, published by Harper Collins, and with a foreword by actor, musician and comedian Bill Bailey. The book is available to purchase online, via the Bird Photographer of the Year website. You can also find full details for 2022’s competition on there too, which will officially open on 30 September 2021. Photographers of all experience levels are invited to take part – register now to be in with a chance of winning.

With conservation at its heart, the Bird Photographer of the Year competition has donated more than £8000 of essential funding to partner charity Birds on the Brink this year alone, helping to support grass-roots bird conservation projects around the world. You can take a look at how the competition has contributed to the cause over on the charity’s website,

Read the full feature in issue 92 of the Photography News, available from September 14.

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