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.
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. 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
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
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
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
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
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
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 (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
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?
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
Take a look at some of our other wildlife galleries:
A (presumably very hungry) great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) swallows a fish whole. Photographed in Hungary. Irma Szabo
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
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 (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
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
A swallow (Hirundo rustica) flies straight through a broken window in an impressive display of skilful and accurate aviation. David White
On the hunt for fish, a European shag (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) dives deep into the water in Croatia. Gábor Li
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
A great cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) manages to skillfully catches their lunch. Photographed at Hod Hasharon, Israel.
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
A squacco heron (Ardeola ralloides) flies over a lake in Italy looking for fish and amphibians to eat. Aguti Antonio