See the Picture That Just Captured the ‘Bird Photographer of the Year’ Title

Written by Katie Melynn Wood
Updated: September 29, 2023
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Capturing the perfect wildlife photo is a feat to be proud of. For one photographer, it comes with extra bragging rights (not to mention a cash prize) as the Bird Photographer of the Year. The photo is titled “Grab the Bull by the Horns.” But instead of a bull, it shows a Peregrine falcon going after a brown pelican in mid-air.

The two birds have their wings outstretched. The falcon is above the pelican, one talon on its head. Not surprisingly, the pelican looks alarmed at the sudden appearance of this other bird. The falcon has its eyes on the horizon, looking forward and ready for action. The pelican, on the other hand, seems to be looking down at the ground in alarm. It is almost as if the pelican is looking for a way to get away from the angry and protective falcon.

One of the interesting things about a photo like this one is that it captures a moment between these birds but we don’t know what happens next. We’re left to wonder if the falcon managed to overpower the pelican or if the pelican flew away safely. It is just this kind of curiosity about birds that the contest is meant to inspire.

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Peregrine falcon in flight

Peregrine falcons are the fastest animals in the world.

©Harry Collins Photography/

Is This Normal Falcon Behavior?

Falcons are fierce predators and it’s not uncommon for them to go after other birds. Pelicans, which are often larger than pelicans, sometimes catch their eye. Peregrine falcons live all around the United States and are one of the most recognizable birds.

However, getting a stunning shot like this doesn’t happen every day. Falcons are very fast when they attack, making it even harder to get a photo just at the right moment. These birds can fly up to 34 miles per hour when just cruising and almost 70 miles per hour during an attack like this one. Videos of falcons attacking pelicans show just how fast these birds can be.

Why Do Peregrine Falcons Attack Pelicans?

Female Peregrine falcons are very territorial. When they have nests nearby, these mothers become very ferocious and attack any other bird that gets too close. It’s likely that this female falcon is going after the pelican for coming into her territory.

The fact that the photo has a background of a rock face reinforces this theory. Female Peregrine falcons make their nests on rock ledges. It’s likely that this pelican flew too close to the nest and Mama Falcon had to shoo the pelican away. Once the pelican was clear, the falcon probably went back to protecting her eggs or chicks.

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Griffiths

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About the Author

Katie is a freelance writer and teaching artist specializing in home, lifestyle, and family topics. Her work has appeared in At Ease Magazine, PEOPLE, and The Spruce, among others. When she is not writing, Katie teaches creative writing with the Apex Arts Magnet Program in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. You can follow Katie @katiemelynnwriter.

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