Duelling Grouse And Turacos In Love Among Bird Photographer Of The Year Winners

Some birds really remind you that they're dinosaurs.


Rachael Funnell


Rachael Funnell

Digital Content Producer

Rachael is a writer and digital content producer at IFLScience with a Zoology degree from the University of Southampton, UK, and a nose for novelty animal stories.

Digital Content Producer

starling at night
This incredible "Starling At Night" shot almost doesn't look real. Image credit: © Mark Williams / Bird Photographer of the Year

The Winners of Bird Photographer of the Year 2022 have been announced and among them are some stunning specimens in all their plumed glory. Each year, the competition draws global attention as it tasks them with capturing aves in artful and unexpected ways to be in with a chance of winning a £5,000 (~$5,800) grand prize.

This year, that reward went to Norwegian photographer Erlend Haarberg for an image of a rock ptarmigan that was named the grand prize winner for 2022. In it, we see Lagopus muta in its winter plumage taking flight in Tysfjord, Norway, set on a background of snow-topped mountains.

rock ptarmigan
An image crisper than a Fox's Glacier Mint. Image credit: © Erlend Haarberg / Bird Photographer of the Year

“High up in the mountains, the wind, snow and cold maintain the iron grip of winter for many months on end. This is where Rock Ptarmigan thrive in an endless white landscape,” says Haarberg.

“On this particular winter’s day, I was on my way to a mountain top. I had almost reached the summit when I spotted some ptarmigan tracks in the snow. Soon a bird took flight, with the dramatic backdrop showing what a harsh environment this bird calls home.”

The winning image is certainly a bath for the eyes, as are many of the entries for 2022. Here are a few of our feathery favorites for your viewing pleasure:

sage grouse
If Game Of Thrones were a bird. Image credit: © Ly Dang / Bird Photographer of the Year

Strut Performer by Ly Dang
Colorado, United States of America.


“You know that springtime has arrived on the prairies of the Great Basin of the American West when the Sage Grouse [Centrocercus urophasianus] gather at their leks,” said Dang in a statement emailed to IFLScience. “On these traditional display grounds, males of this Near Threatened species perform their strutting displays in the hope of winning the right to mate.

“This behaviour is for the benefit of the females, which judge the talent show and select the best genes to pass on to the next generation. I arrived at the lek more than an hour before the birds so I could set up my hide without causing disturbance.”

We're pretty sure these are Pokemon. Image credit: © Richard Flack / Bird Photographer of the Year

The Doting Couple by Richard Flack
 Lower Mpushini, near Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

“I have seen Purple-crested Turacos [Gallirex porphyreolophus] on hundreds of occasions and have always tried to take special photographs of them,” said flack in a release emailed to IFLScience. “They are such iconic African birds and are sought-after subjects.


“The turaco pair seemed much more interested in each other than in me, which allowed for some unbelievable photographic moments. All in all, it was a dream encounter and I felt privileged to share such an intimate moment with them.”

Zoooom. Image credit: © Mark Williams / Bird Photographer of the Year

Starling At Night by Mark Williams
 United Kingdom

“This image was taken using flash, with the camera in rear curtain synch mode,” explained Williams. “To attract the Common Starling, I placed some sunflower seeds in a feeder, and as the bird came towards the feeder, I timed the shot to capture its descent.

“Timing was critical, as was the need to balance the flash with the ambient light so you could see the trail of the starling while the flash ‘froze’ the bird in flight. The coloured gels on the flash heads add to the image, giving it a feeling that the bird is lurking in the shadow of the night.”

sage grouse
Feuding Sage Grouse mean business. Image credit: © Peter Ismert / Bird Photographer of the Year

Duelling On The Lek by Peter Ismert
 Colorado, United States of America

“During the spring breeding season, male Sage Grouse gather on traditional lekking sites and often engage in short but violent fights,” said Ismert. “They have an elaborate display designed to attract and impress females and show their superiority; inevitably this leads to rivalry between males and challenges on the lek.”

“I set up my ground hide a safe distance from the lek a couple of days before the photo shoot. I entered my hide in the middle of the night, trying to sleep as best I could before the early-morning hours. At first light I awoke to booming sounds made by the male grouse, and the sight of their unusual display and this particular battle.”

This year, the competition donated more than £5,000 to partner charity Birds on the Brink. You can see more winners via the Bird Photographer of the Year website, where you can also purchase a hard-back coffee-table book with all the shots including a foreword by naturalist and TV explorer Steve Backshall.


“Once again our talented photographers have cast a light on the incredible diversity of bird life that we share our planet with,” said Will Nicholls, Director of Bird Photographer of the Year. “But it is also a stark reminder of what we stand to lose if we don’t continue to look after the natural world and fight for its protection from the many threats that exist today.”

Fancy your chances at making it into next year’s book? The 2023 competition is now open for entries.


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