PetaPixel Roadrunner Blocked by U.S. Border Wall Wins Best Bird Photo of 2021


Apr 9, 2018
The World

The Bird Photographer of the Year 2021 competition has announced its winners, with a roadrunner stopped in its tracks at the United States-Mexico border wall taking the grand prize.

The Bird Photographer of the Year is a global photographic competition designed to celebrate avian beauty and diversity. The entrants compete for a £5,000 (about $6,895) grand prize as well as other prizes including camera equipment from Olympus and binoculars from Swarovski Optik. The competition is open to residents of any territory and to entrants of all ages. There are eight categories to enter and the competition is open to people who wish to submit anything from a single image to an extensive portfolio.

This year, Mexican photographer Alejandro Prieto took first place in the competition for his image of a roadrunner at the USA-Mexico border. It was named the winner of both the “Birds in the Environment” category as well as named the grand prize winner.


BLOCKED | Alejandro Prieto, Mexico | Nikon D850 with Nikkor 70–200mm f/2.8 lens. Focal length 112mm, 1/320 second, f/14, ISO 200.
The 3,000km-long US–Mexico border traverses and straddles some of the continent’s most biologically diverse regions. It is home to uniquely adapted mammals, reptiles, birds and plants, some of which are found nowhere else on the planet. Numerous species will be affected if the US government decides to build a wall along the border with Mexico. Border infrastructure not only physically blocks the movement of wildlife but it also destroys and fragments habitats. Many desert animals are, to a degree, nomadic wanderers and a wall would sever habitat connectivity and prevent them moving freely from one place to another. In this photograph, a Greater Roadrunner approaches the border wall at Naco, Arizona, with what almost looks like a sense of bewilderment.

“The border wall crosses deserts, mountains, and even mangroves. It is not just desert, and is in fact very biodiverse with more than 1,500 animal and plants species threatened by the wall,” Prieto says. “I have watched many different animals reach the wall before turning around and heading back.”

“The border wall poses a real threat to biodiversity in the area through habitat fragmentation,” the Bird Photographer of the Year competition says. “It physically blocks crucial migration routes for animals such as the long horn sheep, pronghorn, black bear, bison, and even jaguar.”

The photo was chosen as a winner because it is not a typical bird photo but because it tells a strong story.

“The roadrunner appears so vulnerable facing up to the huge border wall that dominates the frame,” the organization continues.

Below are the other winners as chosen by the judges of the competition

Best Portrait


UNDERWATER PORTRAIT | Felipe Foncueva, Spain | Gold | Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon 8–15mm f/4 Focal length 15mm; 1/10th, f/9, ISO 200.

SING HEARTILY | Maofeng Shen, China | Silver | Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with Canon 600mm f/4 lens, 1/640 second, f/6.3, ISO 400.

NIGHT HUNTER | Jonas Classon, Sweden | Bronze | Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with Canon 200–400mm f/4 lens. Focal length 300mm,
1/160 second, f/4, ISO 3,200.

Birds in the Environment


CLAIMING THE FOREST FLOOR | Joshua Galicki, United States of America | Silver | Canon EOS-1D X Mark III with Canon 24–70mm f/4 lens. Focal length 24mm, 1/500 second, f/8, ISO 6,400.

YELLOW-BILLED OXPECKER WITH CAPE BUFFALO | Barbara Fleming, United States of America | Bronze | Nikon D4S with Nikkor 500mm f/4 lens and 1.4x teleconverter. Focal length 700mm, 1/1,600 second, f/8, ISO 1,600.

Attention to Detail


DISAPPEARING | Rafael Armada, Spain | Bronze | Canon EOS-1D X Mark II with Canon EF 100–400mm f/4.5–5.6 II lens. Focal length 100mm, 1/30 second, f/14, ISO 100.

GROWING UP | Raymond Hennessy, United States of America | Silver | Nikon D4S with Nikkor 500mm f/4 lens. Focal length 500mm, 1/640 second, f/4, ISO 400.

BLUE FLAMES | Kerry Wu, United States of America | Bronze | Canon EOS 7D II with Canon 100mm f/4.5–5.6 II lens. Focal length 400mm
1/1,000 second, f/5.6, ISO 1,250.

Bird Behavior


FLORAL BATHTUB | Mousam Ray, India | Gold | Nikon D500 with Nikkor 300mm f/4 and 1.4x teleconverter.
Focal length 420mm, 1/4,000 second, f/7.1, ISO 1,600.

THE FACE OF DEATH | Massimiliano Apollo, Italy | Silver | Sony A9 II with Canon 600mm f/4 lens and 1.4x teleconverter. Focal length 840mm, 1/2,000 second, f/6.3, ISO 3,200.

ENTANGLED | Julie Halliday, Falkland Islands | Bronze | Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon 70–200mm f/2.8 II lens and
2x teleconverter. Focal length 400mm; 1/1,600 second; f/5.6; ISO 250.

Birds in Flight


THIRSTY | Tzahi Finkelstein, Israel | Gold | Nikon D500 with Nikkor 300mm f/4 PF lens. Focal length 300mm, 1/4,000 second, f/7.1, ISO 1,800.

THE ART OF MOTION | Nicolas Reusens, Spain | Silver | Canon R6 with Laowa 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens. Focal length 100mm, 1/25 second, f/13, ISO 200.

FIRST COME, FIRST SERVED | Hannes Lochner, South Africa | Bronze | Nikon D850 with Nikkor 70–200mm f/2.8 lens. Focal length 120mm, 1/5,000 second, f/4, ISO 200.

Black and White


CHINSTRAP PENGUIN | Renato Granieri, United Kingdom | Gold | Nikon D4S with Nikkor 80–400mm f/4.5–5.6 lens.
Focal length 130mm, 1/1,250 second, f/16, ISO 800.

FEATHER LIGHT | James Rogerson, United Kingdom. | Silver | Canon EOS-1D X with Canon 500mm f/4 lens and
1.4x teleconverter. Focal length 700mm, 1/1,000 second,
f/11, ISO 1,600.

SUR LES ROCHES BRETONNES | Nathalie Chanteau, France | Bronze | Nikon D500 with Nikkor 200–500mm f/5.6 lens. Focal length 500mm,
1/1,600 second, f/10, ISO 200.

Urban Birds


DIPPER ON SHOPPING TROLLEY | Terry Whittaker, United Kingdom | Gold | Nikon Z6 with Nikkor 16–35mm f/4 lens. Focal length 22mm, 1/800 second, f/10, ISO 1,000.

LOCKDOWN | William Steel, South Africa | Silver | Canon EOS 6D with Sigma 120–300mm f/2.8 Sport lens. Focal length 252mm,
1/3,200 second, f/4, ISO 800.

THE GUARDIANS | Paolo Crocetta, Italy | Bronze | Nikon D300 with Nikkor 10.5mm f/2.8 Fisheye lens. Focal length 10.5mm, 1/125 second, f/18, ISO 250.

Creative Imagery


SPRATS AND BREAD| Ruediger Schulz, Germany | Gold | Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Sigma 150–600mm f/5–6.3 Sports lens and 1.4x teleconverter. Composite.

FUNNEL | Kathryn Cooper, United Kingdom | Silver | Canon EOS 5D Mark IV with Canon 24–105mm f/4 lens. Stacked and merged exposures.

CRANES, TRAINS AND AUTOMOBILE | Ruth Hughes, United Kingdom | Bronze | Canon EOS 5D Mark III with Canon 24–70mm f/2.8 II lens. Composite.

To see all these and other images that were recognized by the competition, visit

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