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21 incredible pictures from the Bird Photographer of the Year 2021

Swoop in on the spectactular finalists for this year's photography contest.

Now in its 6th year, the Bird Photographer of the Year competition saw over 22,000 entries from 73 different countries all competing for the grand prize.

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As well as gifting us a flock of spectacular images, the world’s premier bird photography contest is a strong supporter of conservation, providing financial support for grassroots projects through their charity partner Birds on the Brink.

The winners of the competition will be announced on 1 September 2021. Until then, you can fly over to their website for even more great snaps.

Any food left, Mum?

A hungry juvenile Shag literally dives down its mother throat for more fish rather than waiting for it to be fully regurgitated. It was taken on the Farne Islands, one of the most accessible 'Puffin Islands' in the UK. A short boat trip from Seahouses in Northumberland drops you into another world of Puffins, Guillemots and ravenous Shags
A hungry juvenile shag literally dives down its mother throat for more fish rather than waiting for it to be fully regurgitated. This image was taken on the Farne Islands, one of the most accessible ‘Puffin Islands’ in the UK. A short boat trip from Seahouses in Northumberland drops you into another world of puffins, guillemots and ravenous shags.
Brian Matthews

(No) social distancing

Fiery-throated Hummingbird resting on a perch a few feet away from the feeders when a wasp approached and landed on him. Disconcerted by the interest shown by the insect, the brief encounter generated a lot of chattering from the Fiery-throated Hummingbird but eventually both flew off unharmed.
A fiery-throated hummingbird (Panterpe insignis) rests on a branch while a wasp perches on him. Disconcerted by the interest shown by the insect, the brief encounter generated a lot of chattering from the hummingbird. Fortunately, both eventually flew off unharmed. Photographed in Costa Rica.
Gail Bisson

Fight club

Two Atlantic Puffins which started a brawl that continued down the snowy slope right in front of the photographer
Here, two brawling Atlantic puffins (Fratercula arctica) tumble down a snowy slope right in front of the photographer. Image taken on the bird cliffs of Hornøya Island, Norway.
Øyvind Pedersen

Playing with your food

Hamerkop This photo was taken in Zimanga Private Reserve, South Africa during my summer holiday. I was on a photography trip with my father. Although the toad appeared to be jumping into the hamerkop’s mouth, in reality the bird was throwing its prey into the air in order to kill it. The toad was also dabbed onto the ground several times by the bird’s beak
A hamerkop (Scopus umbretta) appears to have a willing toad just jumping into his mouth in this picture. However, in reality, the bird is throwing the prey into the air in order to kill it. Photograph taken in Zimanga Private Reserve, South Africa.
Daniel Zhang

Snow dance

Red-crowned Crane pairs are faithful to one another throughout the year, and even during the winter months they engage in behaviour designed to strengthen the bond. Birds perform dual honking rituals and an elaborate dance, and this is much appreciated by photographers who make the pilgrimage to see them in Japan
Red-crowned crane pairs (Grus japonensis) are faithful to one another throughout the year – even during the winter months they engage in behaviour designed to strengthen the bond. Birds perform dual honking rituals and an elaborate dance, all this much appreciated by photographers who make the pilgrimage to see them. Photographed in Japan.
Li Ying Lou

A Hippo makeover

the water-loving mammals also receive a lot of attention from the local Red-billed Oxpeckers who seek a close encounter for more 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: all parties seem entirely comfortable with the relationship.
A hippopotamus from the South Luangwa National Park Zambia receives a lot of attention from a pair of local red-billed oxpeckers (Buphagus erythrorhynchus). The birds and the hippos have evolved a symbiotic relationship: the oxpeckers feed on external parasites, while the hippos benefit from the hygienic makeover.
Daniela Anger

Surf’s up

Gentoo Penguins began surfing long before the first humans latched on to this craze. This image was taken at Carcass Island on the Falkland Islands, where the birds have no option but to surf if they want to get ashore.
Here, a gentoo penguin (Pygoscelis papua) rides a wave at Carcass Island (part of the Falkland Islands), where the birds have no option but to surf to get ashore.
Tom Schandy

In for the kill

A great grey Owl surveys the land below, before swooping down and penetrated the snow-covered ground for the next meal. Photographed in the Northwoods of Minnesota, USA
A great grey owl (Strix nebulosa) surveys the land below, before swooping down and penetrating the snow-covered ground for their next meal. Photographed in the Northwoods of Minnesota, USA.
Scott Suriano

Sun worshipper

A Southern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome) preens itself
A southern rockhopper penguin (Eudyptes chrysocome) preens itself after taking part in a fishing expedition, as the Sun sets behind them. Photographed at the Falkland Islands.
Mark Sisson

Could this be love?

Swans normally don't start to breed until they are at least three years old. But it's not very uncommon that they get engaged in courtship behaviour earlier, as this pair impressively shows. Apparently not caring about age, the adult male was just crazy about an immature female - and vice versa. Over and over again they repeated the entire process of pre-mating rituals, like raising the necks and turning their heads sidewise while keeping their breasts pressed against each other. Even though the shooting of displaying swans on a misty morning involved meticulous planning, it needed also a little luck to get the birds parralel to my camera.
Apparently not caring about age, an adult male mute swan (Cygnus olor) courts an immature female. Over and over the two swans repeat pre-mating rituals, raising necks and turning their heads sidewise while keeping their breasts pressed against each other. Swans normally don’t start to breed until they are at least three years old, so this is very unusual behaviour to witness.
Diana Schmies

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Swallowed whole

A Great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) swallows a fish whole
A (presumably very hungry) great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) swallows a fish whole. Photographed in Hungary.
Irma Szabo

Take that

In winter, food for most animals is in short supply in northern latitudes and many species, including this Red Fox, take greater risks than they would normally do to survive. In this photo a particularly bold fox has ventured close to an area where eagles were feeding. One White- tailed Sea-eagle took exception to the incursion and gave the fox what looks like a good slap with its wings.
During winter, food for most animals is in short supply in northern latitudes. This means many species, including this red fox, take greater risks than they would normally do to survive. In this photo a particularly bold fox has ventured close to an area where eagles were feeding. One white-tailed sea-eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) took exception to the incursion and gave the fox what looks like a good slap with its wings. Photographed in Rausuu, Japan.
Fahad Alenezi

Bambi and friend

Eurasian jackdaw and fallow deer
An Eurasian jackdaw (Corvus monedula) and a fallow deer grab some early-morning Sun together in London’s Bushy Park, UK.
Amanda Cook

I wish I could fly

A young mallard duckling chases a fly in a quiet moment in a city pond in Prague , Czech Republic. Mallard duck I took the photograph on a pond in a beautiful park in a quiet part of the city of Prague. As a family of Mallard ducklings swam past me, one of them began to chase a flying fly. It highlighted the fact that the instinct to feed is a powerful force even in the young, but of course the behaviour itself was comical from a human perspective. Regardless of how you view what’s going on, it certainly makes for an interesting photograph and a moment in time in a duckling’s life captured for posterity.
A young mallard duckling (Anas platyrhynchos) chases a fly during a quiet moment in a city pond in Prague, Czech Republic.
Zdeněk Jakl

I’ll show you how it’s done

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A young American oystercatcher chick learns to forage for food, while a parent watches on. This young bird is old enough to forage but still relies on its parents for food – its beak hasn’t developed the strength to open the shells of molluscs and crustaceans.
James Wilcox

Mind the gap

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A swallow (Hirundo rustica) flies straight through a broken window in an impressive display of skilful and accurate aviation.
David White

Deep dive

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On the hunt for fish, a European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelisdives deep into the water in Croatia.
Gábor Li

Winging it

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This Eurasian nuthatch (Sitta europaea) was captured in the photographer’s garden using feeders and peanuts in order to attract the visitor. The timing and method of capture were crucial to the success of this image. The initial exposure captured the movement of the bird while the flash, fired at the end of the exposure, freezes the bird in flight.
Mark Williams

Fly fishing

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A great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) manages to skillfully catches their lunch. Photographed at Hod Hasharon, Israel.

Daddy daycare

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Emperor penguins (Aptenodytes forsteri) protect a young chick during an Antarctic winter. These birds, the biggest and heaviest penguin species, breed during the winter and have to protect their chicks from the worst of the snow and freezing temperatures for around 65 days.
Thomas Vijayan

Is it a plane? Is it Superman? No, it’s a bird

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A squacco heron (Ardeola ralloides) flies over a lake in Italy looking for fish and amphibians to eat.
Aguti Antonio