Japanese Bird Watching

When someone says Japan, the last thing you think of is bird-life. Japan is a country that has a lot of people in a small area. In fact it ranks in the top 10 of the most densely populated countries in the world (source). This means there is less area for both birds and wildlife alike.

Having said that when I visited in 2013 I was pleasantly surprised that there is more than enough to keep a bird lover like myself very busy. In fact I was out there for 3 full days.

The type of birds you will see while birdwatching will depend on what time of year you go. Unlike a lot of Asian countries, Japan has it’s full weather seasons meaning a lot of the birds migrate during winter. There are however still plenty that stay the full year. Here’s a weather breakdown for the year.

Here are three of my favorite birds I saw while there (unfortunately the photos I shot while away have been lost when my computer crash – hence I have used photos from a great Facebook page about Japanese bird watching)

 

Blue Rock-Thrush

 

Blue Rock-Thrush

The blue rock thrush is one of the bigger birds in Japan and generally breeds in open mountainous areas. It nests in rock cavities and walls, and eats a wide variety of insects and small reptiles in addition to berries and seeds.

The male is unmistakable, with all blue grey plumage apart from its darker wings. Females and the young are much less striking.

The male blue rock thrush sings a clear, melodious call that I really enjoy.

 

Ruddy Kingfisher

 

Ruddy Kingfisher

This colorful little guy was probably my favorite out of the bunch. You will find the ruddy kingfisher all over Asia, but is actually quite rare in Japan. Ruddy kingfishers typically inhabit forested areas from the temperate to tropical zones, most often in thick jungles and rainforests.

The highlight of the bird is undoubtedly it’s big beak (not quite as impressive as the Toucan though). These birds typically travel in pairs (though the one I saw was by itself) and feeds on fish, crustaceans and large insects.

 

Siberian Rubythroat

Siberian Rubythroat

This little guy was the first one I saw while out out birdwatching. You can tell the difference between the male and female by the red throat and a black and white color (on the male). They typically nest near the ground and are very territorial during the nesting period.

 

These are just a few of the many birds I saw while I was there. It really is a beautiful country. The language is very difficult though. It’s not impossible to learn though. A good educational package like Rosetta Stone Japanese will help you learn at least the basics so that you won’t be out of your depth.

 

Source – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Population_density

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/japan/weather

https://www.facebook.com/wild.birds.of.japan

http://rosettastonejapanesereview.com/

 

What Birds Eat

Birds are amazing when it comes to food. They somehow make do with whatever they have around them to survive. In fact they even adapt to ensure they can feed on the food sources around them. Darwin himself had his Aha moment when he was studying finches down in the Galapagos Islands. He noticed that birds of different islands had almost identical features except for different shaped beaks. The shape of these beaks directly related to how they got their food source (e.g. long beaked birds needed them feed on difficult to reach flower nectar etc). He went on to write a fairly popular book about evolution called “On the Origin of Species“.

Due to birds being able to adapt to their environment they can pretty much eat anything. Here are some of the most popular:

 

Insects

Yes, yummy insects! These birds will scavenge through the undergrowth to find what they want. Generally the birds that rely on insects as their main source of food have long and strong beaks to move around leaves and such in order to expose what is underneath. Pretty much all birds eat some type of insects as this is a good source of protein.

 

Bird eating

 

Meat

A lot of birds eat meat as part of their diet. Usually they eat rodents, small mammals, reptiles, fish and reptiles. In most cases birds will use surprise to attack their prey. The birds that are best at this have incredible eyesight. They can see the slightest movement from incredible distances. Those birds you see circling 100s of feet above can be hunting, waiting for that mouse to pop it’s head out from under the log.

 

Grains and Seeds

Probably one of the most common foods among the smaller birds. Because of this most of these birds make great pets. They are easy to feed and keep happy.

Also these types of birds are easy to attract to your backyard. Just get a bird feeder and if there are some in the area they will be there in no time. Just be aware some birds like some grains/seeds and not others. When buying the seeds from a pet store you will see on the box or bag exactly what birds will like it.

 

bird eating fruit

 

Fruit Eating

Many birds like a slice of fruit or two. These types of birds are some of the most unpopular, particularly among farmers! Their diets will generally reply on what fruit is in the area, but they have been known to eat the healthy diet of peaches, maquiberry, berries, mangoes, grapes and nectarines. Many of these birds have specially crafted beaks in order to pierce the skin of the fruit to get to the yummy center. One bird that loves fruit is my favorite, the Toucan.

 

Mollusks

A lot of shore birds eat mollusks. They wait for low tide and then attack a clam, trying to pry open the shells to feast on what is underneath.

 

Hummingbird

 

Nector

These birds have long and narrow beaks in order to feast on the nectar deep inside a flower. They are generally very careful birds that try not to damage the flower while extracting their food knowing full well that damaging the flower will prevent them from coming back at a later date to feed again. Easily the most popular of these birds is the hummingbird (one of my favorites).

 

Gulp! Other Birds!

Yes, some birds are cannibals! This is usually associated with the bigger birds, like a raptor, falcon or hawk. They prey on wounded birds, slower birds that they can sneak up on or simply hunt a bird. These birds are usually the most powerful in the bird kingdom and have strong legs for holding down prey. Some other birds, when food is scares, will turn to this lifestyle, mainly preying on the young and weak.

 

 

Sources – en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Origin_of_Species

www.defenders.org/hummingbirds/basic-facts

 

My Favorite Bird

I thought I would start off with telling you about my favorite bird.  Being Australian you would think I would pick an Australian bird, but my favorite is actually the colorful Toucan. My first memory of the Toucan is from when I was a child and my mum use to get me fruit loops. We have some pretty colorful birds in Australia, but nothing was as colorful as a toucan. That was the start of my love of the toucan.

 

Toucan

 

A little history/information

Toucans come from the  family of birds called Ramphastidae of near passerine birds from the Neotropics. They have bright markings on both their body and large bills. There are various types of Toucans and they can range in size from 30 to 60 centimeters (fully grown). Toucans are native to South America (northern) and Central America (through to southern Mexico). You will also find them in the Caribbean. While toucans generally eat fruit, they can and will eat bugs and lizards. They are also known to raid other birds nests and steal eggs and young hatching.

For more information check out the wiki site.

 

Why are they my favorite bird

I think it comes down to the colors.  I mentioned above that I started liking them as a child. As a child I think you are naturally drawn to colorful things. The amazing thing was that they are just as colorful in real life as they were on the cereal box. While I have no doubt that my childhood memories are a big reason behind my love for them I still find them a stunning bird. The day God created them he must have been in a happy mood.  They just make you want to smile. Their large beautiful beaks make them look like they are about to tip over.

 

Toucan 2

 

Finally seeing one in the wild

It was about ten years ago I finally had the chance to see one in the wild. My wife and I decided that we would spend our holidays in Costa Rica. Not only is the bird life really big there, but the wildlife is amazing. I was truly exited to see a real life one that wasn’t in a zoo.

We packed our bags with all our bird watching gear and our first activity in the new country was to go exploring through Manuel Antonio National Park. We were lucky enough to find sloths, howler monkeys and snakes on our first visit there, but it wasn’t right until the end that we finally got to see what we had been waiting for.  Well, we heard it first.  For those of you that don’t know they are noisy. I guess that is what those big beaks are for! After hunting around for it we saw it sitting a top the tree line calling out for his mate.

The trip was already worth it and we had only been there for one day.

 

I hope you stick around. I’ve got some great stories and advice coming up in later posts. I can’t wait to get all this information out of my head!