Environment

Japan's Endemic Bird Species

Japan houses several unique species of birds found nowhere else on earth, some of which are threatened.

Japan, located in the northwest of the Pacific Ocean, boasts of a rich avifauna which includes the internationally famous Okinawa Rail, Bonin White-Eye, Ryukyu Scops Owl and Amami Woodcock. The wide climatic range of Japan has enriched the flora and fauna, stretching from the boreal to the sub-tropical climatic zones. This unique ecological background of Japan has influenced the type of flora and fauna found in the country. More than 60% of bird species found in Japan are migratory while at least 60 of them are either endemic or sub-regionally endemic.

When it comes to bird conservation efforts, Japan is one of the leading countries having the largest nature conservation NGO known as the Wild Bird Society of Japan. The NGO has over 50,000 members who advocate for bird conservation.

Japan’s endemic bird species

Bonin White-Eye

The Bonin White-Eye (Apalopteron familiare), is a native bird of Japan found in the sub-tropical zones. It is a small bird with a colorful yellow and olive-green plumage. The eye is surrounded by a black patch that joins with the black line of the forehead. It has strong black legs and rounded wings. Its approximate length is 13.5cm. The Bonin white-eye is originally found in the Japanese islands of Ogasawara and has recently spread to other island groups such as Haha-jima. This bird species prefers to inhabit the well-developed undergrowth in forests, plantations, and rural gardens. The population of the Bonin-white eye has been declining due to habitat loss. Thus, the Ogasawara Islands are now set aside for National Wildlife Protection Area with the main aim of conserving this bird species. Currently, it is classified as a vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List.

Copper Pheasant

The Copper Pheasant (Syrmaticus soemmerringii) is a beautiful bird endemic to Japan. It is a species of long-tailed pheasant and derives its name from the metallic coppery red plumage. The neck and chest are uniformly chestnut red in color while the underparts are dull and pale. The face has wattles surrounding the eyes. In Japan, the copper pheasant is mainly found on the Honshu, Shikoku and Kyushu islands. The copper pheasant inhabits mixed forests with dense undergrowth and especially on coniferous, broadleaved forest types. The main threat facing the copper pheasant is large-scale hunting for sport and habitat loss. It is classified as a nearly threatened species.

Okinawa Rail

The Okinawa rail (Gallirallus okinawae) has a distinctive red color on the bill and legs which offer a magnificent contrast with the upper body colors of black, brown and white plumage. The sides of the head and neck are black with a white stripe extending from the eye and joining the lower part of the neck. The Okinawa rail is a flightless bird with a short tail. The legs are long and strong. The bird forages for insects, snails, and lizards on the forest floor and sometimes gets its food from shallow waters. The Okinawa rail is endemic to the southern Japanese island of Okinawa which is among the Nansei Shoto (Ryukyu) islands. Since the Okinawa rail is only marginalized to a tiny range on a single island, the current population is vulnerable due to predators and habitat loss through logging. It is now legally protected in Japan.

Amami Woodpecker

The Amami Woodpecker is only found on Amami Oshima in the southern part of Japan among the Islands of Ryukyu. It inhabits mature evergreen broadleaf forests and feeds on wood-boring insects. It is a newly split species from the white-backed woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos) and has an estimated global population of 1000-2499. It is classified as a near threatened species.

In conclusion

With over 60 endemic bird species in Japan, the main threat to their existence is due to habitat loss, sport-hunting and introduction of predators. Most birds are only found in specific islands, of which most are in the south of Japan.

Japan's Endemic BirdsScientific Name
Bonin White-Eye
Apalopteron familiare
Copper PheasantSyrmaticus soemmerringii
Japanese Green PheasantPhasianus versicolor
Okinawa RailGallirallus okinawae
Ryukyu RobinLarvivora komadori
Okinawa WoodpeckerDendrocopos noguchii
Japanese Green WoodpeckerPicus awokera
Amami WoodpeckerDendrocopos owstoni
Ryukyu Scops OwlOtus elegans
Ryukyu MinivetPericrocotus tegimae
Owston's TitSittiparus owstoni
Lidith's JayGarrulus lidthi
Izu ThrushTurdus celaenops
Amami Woodcock
Scolopax mira
Amami Thrush
Zoothera dauma major

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