“Fingertips” by Kate Burgess. Winner, Birds in Flight. “Being able to capture both the ‘fingertips' of the feathers in flight and the cockatoo's head and feet in the background makes this a magical image for me. Shooting in burst mode enabled me to capture just the right composition.”
Australia's unique birds are celebrated in the annual BirdLife Australia Photography Awards. Some of the country's best bird photographers submit their work for consideration each year, and the 2023 contest was no exception. Nine winners were singled out for their work, rising above more than 6,000 images that were submitted.
The winning photos are both a celebration of Australia’s spectacular and diverse birdlife and a powerful statement. Organizers BirdLife Australia and BirdLife Photography hope they will inspire more people to connect with, care about, and protect birds and nature.
Standout images include Kate Burgess' action-packed photograph of a cockatoo in flight, which won the Birds in Flight category. As the cockatoo spread its wings in the forest, its individual feathers almost look like they're touching the photographer's lens. In terms of cuteness, Nikki Kenwrick's winning image in the Backyard Birds category takes the cake. In the photo, an adorable Superb Blue Wren is perched on a gap in wood fencing. With its head thrown back and beak slightly open, we can almost hear its song.
The photo contest not only awards these incredible bird photographers, but it also gives back to help Australia's bird population. The funds raised through entry fees support BirdLife Australia’s bird conservation work. This year, proceeds will go to its Birds on Farms project in central west New South Wales, helping landholders protect, restore, and revegetate threatened woodland bird habitat on their properties.
Scroll down for more winners and our favorite finalists, and then check out the full winner's gallery for even more exceptional bird photography.
Here are the winners of the 2023 Birdlife Australia Photography Awards.
“Song of the Superb” by Nikki Kenwrick. Winner, Backyard Birds. “There are several families of Superb Blue Wrens living at my mother's place, and I often sit and watch them popping around her garden. They are such happy little birds.”
“Wings spread” by Tai M. Winner, Youth. “During a walk along the Victoria Quay I was shooting some photos of the seagulls flying around me, I noticed there were moments where they would fly directly above me. I tried for a shot like this one a few times but failed until I eventually captured one of the birds scratching itself mid flight.”
“Where there is smoke there is fire” by Martin Anderson. Winner, Portfolio. “The portfolio consists of a sequence of images that I was lucky to capture of a Brown Falcon trying to steal a free meal from a Spotted Harrier. The Spotted Harrier (Smoke Hawk) had just captured a Golden-headed Cisticola, and this did not go unnoticed by the Brown Falcon perched in a nearby tree. The Spotted Harrier was doing its best to hide the kill in its plumage as it flew gracefully across the field, when the Brown Falcon (one of Australia's Fire Hawks) flew in to steal the prize. An interesting battle ensued and the prize fell to the ground unclaimed, the Harrier asserted dominance and the Brown Falcon left in defeat.”
“Morning! Time to get moving” by Veronica McPhail. Winner, Birds in the Landscape. “Early morning movement from all residents along the south Perth foreshore. The swans awake and swim across the lake, looking for food.”
“Leapfrog” by Jason Moore. Shortlight, Birds in Flight. “The classical flight shot of the Rainbow Bee-eater is the front on, wings spread “portrait”. I thought this side on perspective offered the viewer something a little unusual. I'm fond of the lighting in this image. The subject and perch are shrouded in shadow, but the distant background is being lit by sunlight, which has created a contrast between cool and warm colors which I find quite attractive.”
“Water trails” by Rebecca Harrison. Shortlist, Special Theme. “A Little Egret takes off gracefully, leaving a sparkle of water droplets in its wake.”
“Anguish” by Kim Wormald. Shortlist, Human Impact. “This was such a heart-wrenching situation, not only the adult's anguish at being entangled in nylon filament but also the juvenile's desperation as it tries to free its parent. I called a specialist rescue service that was unable to save this bird.”
The photo contest celebrates Australia's unique and diverse wildlife.
“Casso-unwary” by Gail Yager. Shortlist, Bird Portrait. “We were driving in Tully Gorge NP and pulled off the road. To our surprise, this young Southern Cassowary was standing there. He was as curious about us as we were about him—whilst maintaining a safe distance! I love the tilt of his head and the way his casque looks like a cap, which I have emphasized with the way I have cropped the photo.”
“Urban sentinel” by Stephen Spence. Shortlist, Backyard Birds. “A White-faced Heron stands on the roof gutter of a house near the beach, its presence capturing the essence of the coastal surroundings. The black and white contrast adds depth to this urban encounter with nature. The image also captures the Heron's elegant presence, symbolizing an urban sentinel amid the coastal landscape.”
“Piercing” by Colin Driscoll. Winner, Bird Portrait. “Just on sunset a female Australasian Darter looks up from preening after her final successful fishing session for the day. These birds are so angular it is difficult to get an interesting composition. This shot captures what these birds do under water. One can imagine this is the last thing a fish sees as the long neck launches that bill piercing it like a spear fisher would.”
“Two's company” by D'Artagnan Sprengel. Shortlist, Youth. “Walking back to the car along the Coodanup Foreshore, I came across a large flock of what I believe were Little Corellas. They were feeding on the ground around the carpark. I saw these two perched together on an open branch and thought it would make a cute photo. I composed the image in portrait orientation and chose to overexpose the image to get a nice, clean, white background.”
A leucistic Australian Pied Oystercatcher catches the last light as it retreats to the mangroves. Cairns, Queensland, Australia
“Have you heard the one about…” by Franciscus Scheelings. Shortlist, Bird Behavior. “While doing a bit of birding at the La Trobe University wetlands I noticed a large flock of Little Corellas on one of the ovals with several pairs rolling around in the grass. I got down as low as I could to fire off some shots and managed to get this photo of what looks like a couple of old friends sharing an hilarious joke.”
“Pollen Shower” by Guy Draper. Winner, Bird Behavior. “I had spent several weeks returning to the same area of the park, watching and photographing a wide variety of native birds feeding on the Grass Trees. After taking a lot of front-lit shots, I set myself the challenge of getting some “last light” backlit shots, capturing some behavior with warmer light. I knew the instant I checked the back of the camera with this image that I'd captured a special moment, as the Yellow-faced Honeyeater showered itself in pollen as it plucked the flower from the stem!”
The funds raised from entry fees go toward conservation projects aimed at protecting Australia's bird populations.
“Jambalaya on the Bayou” by Jason Moore. Winner, Special Theme. “The somewhat messy, but beautifully coloured background inspired the title of this image. For those of you that don't know, The Carpenters released a hit song in the 70's called Jambalaya on the Bayou. It was a happy song with a tuneful beat, and it spoke of life on the Bayou… my thoughts of a Bayou include water everywhere, flooded cypress trees with Spanish Moss hanging from their branches, and swampland with wading birds…”
“Curlew construction consideration” by Gregory Abbott. Winner, Human Impact. “One night in April, I went down to pick up a passenger off the late ferry. The Macleay Island jetty (then still under major reconstruction) was deserted except for myself and this attentive Bush Stone-Curlew. Both of us waiting. The Curlew just stood there as if the construction, signs, lights, and dead machinery had stumped it. I slowly walked to within a few meters and took the shot with my phone, then retreated a little. I too was somewhat stunned at the implications for wildlife of the multi-million dollar upgrade to jetty and the extended parking areas. I stood with the Curlew for a while. Then quietly I retreated to take a fenced in, man-made detour to the jetty proper. The concrete concentrations. Mine. The curlew's… where will it go?”