Announcing the winners of the Bird Photographer of the Year 2020 competition

Having completed its fifth year, Bird Photographer of the Year (BPOTY) is pleased to announce the 2020 winners of this prestigious competition.

The conservation charity Birds on the Brink (charity no. 1188009) owns Bird Photographer of the Year and derives income from the competition. Birds on the Brink awards grants for conservation projects that benefit birds in particular – ones where a modest amount of money can do the most measurable good.

The winning entry is an impressionistic image of a European Shag taken at Vardø in Norway and is entitled ‘End of the Day’. The image was taken by Majed AlZa’abi from Kuwait. Majed wins the top prize of £5,000 and the title ‘Bird Photographer of the Year 2020’. Majed’s image was also the winning image in the Best Portrait category of the competition and for that he wins a pair of Swarovski Optik binoculars.

The Bird Photographer of the Year judging team comments collectively: “To win this competition it takes a very special photograph. Technical perfection is simply not enough; it is the imaginative eye and a mind that seeks out the unusual and the artistic in the everyday that will do well. The vast majority of the 15,000 images entered annually are of an amazing standard, sufficient eye-candy to feed even the most visually gluttonous. But create a photograph that makes us sick with envy or cry out with uncontained excitement, then you are in with a chance. When that collective shout from the judges is ‘I wish I had taken that myself’, then you are onto a winner. Well done Majed for sharing this stunning image with us – it is a well-deserved winner.”

Above: Bird Photographer of the Year 2020 winner, Majed AlZa’abi.

Bird Photographer of the Year 2020 winner Majed AlZa’abi comments “I was thrilled to receive the news that I had won the prestigious award Bird Photographer of the Year 2020. It was also wonderful to receive the news about the conservation drive being undertaken by BPOTY and the launch of its charity owner Birds on the Brink. It is great news to think that the artistry of my image will not only inspire fellow photographers but will also help spread the conservation message far and wide.

Heading the judges, naturalist and TV presenter Chris Packham, comments: “These fragile, feathered things not only remind us what a joy life – including our life – is, but also how fleeting it can be if we fail to look after it. And the lives of birds are a reflection of our own. Their predicament is our predicament, and now there’s no hiding from it – we are at the precipice. We have all the wings we need to soar to a successful recovery… the only question is, will we succeed in time? That’s down to you, and me – down to us all. So, please look at and love these photographs, but then get up and do something to make a difference, because there’s a terrifying alternative just around the corner.

Receiving an Olympus OM-D E M1 MKII camera body and M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm F/4 IS PRO lens with a combined value of £3,500 is the winner of the Best Portfolio award Georgina Steytler from Australia. This prize rewards consistency of skill and photographic talent over a series of 6 images as scored by the judges.

Above: This Great Crested Grebe is one of a series of 6 images that won Georgina Steytler
the BPOTY Best Portfolio Award for 2020.


Other competition category Gold Award winners sponsored by Swarovski Optik are:
Birds in the Environment – Francesco Pellegrini, Italy
Attention to Detail – Moshe Cohen, Israel
Bird Behaviour – Roelof Molenaar, Netherlands
Birds in Flight – Gadi Shmila, Israel
Garden and Urban Birds – Magdalena Strakova, Czech Republic
Creative Imagery – James Hudson, United Kingdom
Black and White – Robert Sommer, Germany

The category Silver Award winners sponsored by Gitzo are:
Best Portrait – Greg Lecoeur, France
Birds in the Environment – Pål Hermansen, Norway
Attention to Detail – Mathias Putze, Germany
Bird Behaviour – Greg Lecoeur, France
Birds in Flight – Nikos Fokas, Greece
Garden and Urban Birds – Kiko Arcas, Spain
Creative Imagery – Terje Kolaas, Norway
Black and White – Daniel Stenberg, Sweden

The category Bronze Award winners sponsored by Country Innovation are:
Best Portrait – Terje Kolaas, Norway
Birds in the Environment – Swayamsiddha Mohapatra, India
Attention to Detail – Francis De Andrés, Spain
Bird Behaviour – Nicholas Reusens, Sweden
Birds in Flight – Shu Qing, China
Garden and Urban Birds – Carlos Cifuentes, Spain
Creative Imagery – Chengbo Sun, China
Black and White – Juan Pablo Plaza Pozo - Spain

The Inspirational Encounters Award 2020 winner is Gail Bisson from Canada with a stunning photograph of a Providence Petrel taken off Lord Howe Island, Australia. Established in association with wildlife travel company, Wildlife Worldwide and their sister company, The Travelling Naturalist, the Award celebrates all that is positive about the impact of the avian world on people and the potential that it has to inspire all of us by combining imagery and prose: entrants were invited to submit an image that represents an inspirational encounter with birds accompanied by approximately 150 words of text. The task was that imagery and text combined should tell a story and convey to the viewer and reader the significance of this moment to the photographer. The Award also aims to help conservation via a donation from Wildlife Worldwide going to the annual Birdfair cause.

Providence Petrel by Gail Bisson.

Years before I became interested in bird photography, I read The Fatal Shore, a book about the colonisation of Australia and its brutal history of convict transportation. In the book, author Robert Hughes discusses the colonisation of Norfolk Island and details the sad fate of its Providence Petrels. The heart-breaking story remained in my mind and heart for years, and I long harboured a wish to someday see a Providence Petrel. A recent trip to Australia allowed me to include a side trip to Lord Howe Island and have my dream realised.

The petrels were called Providence Petrels because they provided the only food available to the transported convicts from England when they landed on Norfolk Island in the late 1700s. The petrels were exterminated on Norfolk Island between 1790 and 1800. One million adults and young were harvested for food from 1790 to 1793, and numbers had dropped to 15,000 by 1796, with complete extermination by 1800. Today, other than a few pairs found nesting on Norfolk Island, and more recently a few pairs on Phillip Island, 99.9 per cent of the world population of Providence Petrels nest on Mt Gower on Lord Howe Island (roughly 32,000 pairs). The species is classed as Vulnerable. Its name is both ironic and heart-breaking, because the presence of humans was hardly ‘providential’ for these petrels. This past winter, Lord Howe Island started a rat-extermination programme. By eliminating the rats, it is hoped that petrel numbers will rise to a new high. What a wonderful moment it was to watch the petrels returning at dusk to Mt Gower.

Gail Bisson, Inspirational Encounters Award Winner 2020.

The winner of the Young Bird Photographer of the Year 2020 competition is also announced. The first prize has been claimed by Adam Lake from the United Kingdom with his innovative use of a phone camera to capture this beautiful reflection of a Mute Swan entitled ‘Seeing Double’. Adam wins a pair of Swarovski Optik binoculars and £300.

Above: Young BPOTY 2020 winning image by Adam Lake from the United Kingdom.

Young Bird Photographer of the Year Ambassador and judge Megan McCubbin comments: “There is something incredibly special about the images that come from young wildlife photographers. Adults tend to confine themselves to the rules and regulations that previous photographers have ‘set in stone’ before them. But it’s clear that the youth smash through these boundaries in daring and inventive ways to showcase the world as they see it. Some of the most novel and unusual images have come from photographers who started at an early age.

Over the past few months, we have all lived through unprecedented times, the result being that many photographers have been unable to get out to take new images. Out of respect for our community the BPOTY team is going to pause the competition temporarily and launch the new cycle in early 2021. An unlikely consequence of Covid19 has been that it has unleashed the creative potential of online communication - social media has truly come of age. BPOTY intends to make full and inspiring use of trends in communication and we will look forward rather than backward in the way we operate, something that also recognises the competition's growing international audience.

The competition book, published by William Collins, is now available. This lavish 256 page volume showcases the very best imagery from the competition and features the stories behind the images as told by the photographers themselves, plus all the technical camera information. RRP £25. The book can be ordered directly from the BPOTY website:

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