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Birds of Japan

Birds Eye View

From swans to pheasants...eagles and hawks, sparrows and colorful little songbirds, the families of birds represented in Western Japan reflect the diversity of the pristine mountains that surround the little villages.

City bird - JapanMany cities have a designated official bird, flower and tree. They are included on the welcome signs as one enters the central city. This pheasant-like bird feeds on the many rice paddies in the area.

Very large hawks are seen across the towns and countryside.These large hawks make lazy circles in the sky -- just like their American cousins. They are an accepted part of this rural "edge" habitat that is rapidly turning rice and truck farming land into suburban homesteads. The valleys are very densely developed in the residential areas, but extensive garden and farming areas exist on the outer edges of the towns. Almost all homes had personal gardens with fruit trees in their back yards, and some families rent additional garden space in these suburban fields.

Bird feeders were very rare. This feeder roof was located at the Museum of Tools. It reminded me of a Conastoga wagon, and was designed to allow a shallow tray of food to be slipped into the covered platform feeder. One local who loves wildlife replied to my question about birdfeeding "We have so many loose cats that I don't feed birds any longer -- it made me feel as though I was preparing a buffet for the cats."

It seemed that all public buildings had ponds with huge koi and goldfish in them. At the Black Castle, the migrating ducks and cranes were as fascinated by these large fish as the people were! A couple birds even tried to make a meal out of the fish...but they were too quick and big for that fate!

Yes, Japan has pigeons, too. And they love to eat popcorn on the city park walkways. One large eagle swooped down to this flock of pigeons and I cringed, expecting the worst...but he was really interested in the abundant supply of popcorn the visitors were tossing to the pigeons! Little Kent wasn't quite sure it was safe around all these birds!

It was a pleasant surprise to discover that swans migrate between Siberia and Japan. This migratory visitor is honored in one town with huge sculptures and festivals. These swans were on the moat around the Black Castle, and as you can see in the photos, the koi are almost as large as the swans -- and quite content to swim beside these majestic visitors.
Cranes hold special significance in Japanese tradition. They are a symbol of peace. The Buddhist temples were graced with sculptures of these elegant birds. After World War II, the monks were so desperate for food and supplies that they sold some of their sculptures to European visitors, and the move is underway to locate these national treasures and bring them home.

Shinya Kuwata is a nature interpreter, and gives tours of the mountains in Karuizawa, a popular holiday destination by residents and visitors of Tokyo. He is an avid birdwatcher and yearns to come to the U.S. to do some birdwatching. His love of the outdoors is shared by his wife, Atsumi, and they take frequent trips into nature to enjoy their native wonders.

This egret was hungry and tried diligently, though unsuccessfully, to dine on the koi in this castle moat. Many of the koi were larger than the bird...note the large orange fish in the lower right corner of the photo.

Many techniques were observed being used to keep birds away from the bounty of this very fruit oriented agricultural region. In the mornings, loud hydraulic powered "poppers" were activated to chase the birds away. In many orchards strips of black plastic, and elegantly dressed scarecrows were used to chase away winged critters.

But not all bird sitings were pleasant. This real "scarecrow" gave its life to keep other birds away from the rice paddy.
Photos: Copyright 2005 Carolyn Allen. All rights reserved. You are welcome to link to these articles.

For more articles about URBAN NATURE

Urban Agriculture for Outdoor Adventure
Earth's Most Successful Life Form
Kudzu Grows a Foot per Day
Meow How? Should I keep my cat indoors?
Habitat on Your Balcony and Garden Patio
Keeping ants in nature where they belong

For more articles about BIRDS, BIRDS, BIRDS!

Bird Profiles for Young Natguralists
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Red Breasted Nuthatch
Carolina House Wren
White Breasted Nuthatch
Tufted Titmouse
Prothonotary Warbler
Hairy Woodpecker
Eastern Bluebirds
Downey Woodpecker
Purple Martin