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Roadrunner at border wall image wins photo contest

This image of a Greater Roadrunner at the US/Mexico border wall won the Bird Photographer of the Year contest. Photo © Alejandro Prieto/Bird Photographer of the Year

Photographers from all over the world entered more than 22,000 images into the Bird Photographer of the Year 2021 competition, each with their eyes on the £5,000 (about $6,940) grand prize.

Mexican photographer Alejandro Prieto won this year’s grand prize for his poignant image of a Greater Roadrunner stopped in its tracks at the U.S.-Mexico border wall. He took the photo at Naco, Arizona, a border town south of Bisbee.

“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,” says Prieto. “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. It physically blocks crucial migration routes for animals such as the long horn sheep, pronghorn, black bear, bison, and even jaguar.

“Prieto’s image immediately caught the attention of the judges. It is not your typical bird photo, and the story behind the image is so strong,” says Will Nicholls, director of Bird Photographer of the Year. “The roadrunner appears so vulnerable facing up to the huge border wall that dominates the frame.”

Bird Photographer of the Year has conservation at its heart. This year, the competition donated more than £8,000 (about $11,108) of essential funding to partner charity Birds on the Brink (, which supports grassroots bird conservation projects around the world.

The Young Bird Photographer of the Year 2021 was awarded to 17-year-old Swiss photographer Levi Fitze for his image of a Black Grouse lekking at sunrise, below.

Black Grouse on a lek. Photo © Levi Fitze/Bird Photographer of the Year

View a slideshow of other winning images from the 2021 contest.

Read our past stories about wildlife and the border wall:

Border wall construction accelerates, harming wildlife and habitat

Trump’s border wall puts borderland birds at risk

170+ groups oppose border wall, say it would threaten wildlife and public lands

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