Moment falcon digs its talons into pelican's head to protect its nest captured in incredible photo

Jack Zhi won the award for Bird Photographer of the Year. He captured a peregrine falcon slaying a huge brown pelican.

The 2023 Bird Photographer of the Year award goes to a remarkable photo showing a female falcon attacking a brown pelican in midair. The enormous brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) is shown being attacked by the peregrine falcon (Falco peregrinus), which swooped down on it and tamed the bird of prey, hitting its head.

After four years of attempting, Southern Californian Jack Zhi finally got the shot, which he named "Grab the Bull by the Thorns." Zhi stated in a statement, "I adore the pelican's eyes in this picture—surprised and afraid." "The activity happened quickly and ended in a flash. However, I will always cherish that time."

The fastest animals in the animal kingdom are peregrine falcons, who can dive up to 200 mph (320 km/h). Females get extremely protective of their young during mating season, which begins in late February in California, and will attack anything that comes near.

The fast-paced pursuit made using a long lens to take a close-up difficult. Zhi said, "The falcon struck the pelican's head with incredible accuracy.

More than 20,000 photos were entered into the competition by photographers worldwide in an attempt to win the $6,300 (5,000 British pounds) top prize. Eight categories are included in the yearly competition, which includes Best Portrait, Birds in the Environment, and Birds in Flight.

A humorous photo of a purple heron (Ardea purpurea) trying to sate its ravenous appetite with a big crucian carp (Carassius carassius) is among the other category winners. The Best Comedy Bird Photo award went to this picture.

Despite their reputation for feeding "on mice, snakes, toads, and other creatures," the heron that was seen in the Italian Peninsula's lake basins "voraciously swallowed the carp after several attempts to turn the fish on its side," according to photographer Antonio Aguti.

Ensifera ensifera, the sword-billed hummingbird, was the subject of another award-winning photograph in the category Birds In Flight, showcasing a distinct bill display.

One of the biggest hummingbird species and the only one with a beak longer than its body is the sword-billed hummingbird. This adaption may seem like a drawback, but photographer Rafael Armada clarifies that it is necessary for the species "to feed on flowers with long corollas, [making] it a vital pollinator."