THE BIRDS OF OKINAWA
George R. Beringer
Preface (2002) ----------3
Map - - - - - - - - - - - - 10
Good Birding Locations - - - - - - - - - - - - 11
Birds Recorded From Okinawa - - - - - - - - 20
Okinawa Woodpecker (Noguchigera) - - - 55
Bibliography --- A Partial Listing of References
Consulted during my study of The Birds of Okinawa - - - 66
Those reading this manuscript are doing so because of an interesting chain of circumstances. M y field
work on Okinawa occurred during late 1969 through M ay 1973 when I returned to the United States. I
completed this manuscript in early 1976 and also had an article published in Tori during the same year.
This manuscript was never published and I continued on with other projects - - with many fond
memories of Okinawa and my birding experiences there.
In 1981 I received a letter from a serious U.S. birder on Okinawa named Doug M cWhirter. Before
traveling to Okinawa, Doug had performed a literature search and found the article I had written for Tori.
Once on Okinawa he asked around to see if anyone knew of me and learned my address from a former
neighbor, Rod Barron. That began some pleasant years of correspondence concerning his Okinawa
birding experiences. I provided him with a copy of this manuscript and was very impressed with his
new sightings and his partnership with a local birder, Hiroshi Ikenaga.
It was a real surprise to receive a letter from Doug in 2002. Almost 20 years after leaving Okinawa he
forwarded a message from Hiroshi Ikenaga who was searching for my address and permission to publish
this draft on his Birds of Okinawa web site. He has my permission to do so. I also grant permission
to anyone to reproduce this manuscript for their personal use and to institutions for educational
I was very pleased to call up Ikenaga’s web site, Birds of Okinawa. The first thing I did was to read the
extensive article on Okinawa birds prepared by M cWhirter, Ikenaga, et al. It certainly would have
been nice to have had this quality of information and the field guides currently available during my time
there. The good news is that they are available to those of you fortunate enough to be birding on
I thoroughly enjoyed the sense of new discovery provided by birding Okinawa in the early 1970s. I
hope this manuscript will convey a sense of that period for you. Other than correcting a few
typographical errors, it is unchanged since 1976. I believe the information on good birding locations,
the narratives in some of the species accounts, and the chapter containing my field notes on the Okinawa
Woodpecker will still be of interest.
My sincere thanks go to Hiroshi Ikenaga for his interest in making this manuscript available on his web
site, to Doug M cWhirter for keeping me informed of his birding experiences while on Okinawa, and to
both of them for their accomplishments in advancing the understanding of the Okinawa avifauna.
George R. Beringer
6432 Brookway Drive
San Antonio, TX 78240 USA
I arrived on Okinawa in November l969 for what was to become a 3 1/2 years assignment at the U.
S. Army hospital. As a birder (bird watcher), I was very anxious to learn what birds were found on the
island and to see and photograph as many species as possible. At the first opportunity, I went to the local
bookstores in search of a book about the birds of Okinawa and was very surprised to learn that there was
none. At the time there were also no available field guides in English, which covered the birds found on
I decided that I would learn as much as I could about Okinawa's birds and prepare a book that
would help to fill this void. During the next 3 1/2 years I devoted a major portion of my free time to
birding throughout the island, keeping extensive notes of my observations and photographing as many
species as possible. In addition, I began an intensive literature search, which has continued until the
preparation of this text. M uch remains to be learned and published about the species of birds occurring
on Okinawa and their status.
The purposes of this book are to list the bird species that have been recorded from Okinawa and
their status if known to me or indicated in the literature, to summarize my observations, give suggestions
on where and when to look for Okinawa's birds, and to provide a bibliography of references consulted.
This book is not a field guide for bird identification. For those birding on Okinawa, I recommend
the following field guides in the order listed:
1. A field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia, 1975, by Ben F. King and Edward C. Dickinson.
2. Birds in Japan, A Field Guide, 1974, by Yoshimaro Yamashina.
3. Birds of Japan in Natural Colures, 1965, by Keisuke Kobayashi. (The text of this book is in
Japanese, however it contains an outstanding illustration in color for every species of bird found on
Okinawa with the exception of the endemic Okinawa Woodpecker. The illustrations are keyed by
number to common and scientific names written in Eng1ish).
4. The Birds of Korea, 1971, by M .E.J. Gore and Won Pyong-Oh.
5. A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe, 1966, by Roger Tory Peterson, Guy Mountfort,
and P. A. D. Hollom.
While not a field guide, I also recommend the Check List of Japanese Birds, 1974, by The
Ornithological Society of Japan, to anyone with a deep interest in the birds of Okinawa or Japan.
This book is written for those people interested, in birds who have the good fortune to live on
Okinawa or to visit the island. It will also be of interest to those who are curious about the island's
avifauna, although they may never set foot on Okinawa.
The Ryukyu Islands stretch in an arc from Kyushu, Japan to Taiwan. The island chain is
approximately 650 miles long and separates the East China Sea from the Pacific Ocean. The islands are
the tops of submerged mountains and form a route for bird migration between Japan, Taiwan and the
Okinawa is the largest of the Ryukyu Islands and is located about midway in the chain of islands. It
is approximately 67 miles long and varies from about 2 to 16 miles in width. It has an area of 454 square
miles. The northern 2/5 of Okinawa is composed mostly of steep mountains, the highest of which is M t.
Yonaha with an elevation of 498 meters. In most of the northern area, only a small strip along the coast
is below 100 meters. The southern 3/5 of the island is mostly at an elevation of less than 100 meters. In
1970 the population of Okinawa was 945,111 and is probably close to one million at this writing. The
majority of the population is located in the southern third of the island. Naha, the capital and largest city,
is located here and had a 1970 population of 276,380.
Okinawa has a humid, semitropical culminate. The warm Japanese (Kuroshio) Current flows
northward along the Ryukyus. Since 1945, the recorded temperature extremes have been 42°F and 96°F.
The mean minimum temperature for February, the coolest month, has been 56°F, while the mean
maximum temperature for July, the hottest month, has been 88°F. Temperatures from June through
September average about 82°F. The mean relative humidity is about 80% and the average annual rainfall
is about 83 inches. Historically, about 20 days of each month have at least a trace of precipitation. The
typhoon season is generally from June to November and each year several typhoons usually sweep
through the Ryukyu Islands.
Agriculture is important to the economy of Okinawa. The main crops are sugarcane, pineapples,
rice and truck crops. The island is becoming more industrialized and tourism is becoming very important.
Expo '75, the International Ocean Exposition, was located on the M otobu Peninsula.
A major factor in the diversity of birds for a particular location is the number and types of habitats
represented. To provide an idea of the birding opportunities available on Okinawa, I have made the
following classification of its habitats. I will describe each of them in turn, state typical bird species to
be found, and mention some of the locations that typify what I am attempting to describe. A latter
portion of this book will describe the locations in more detail and will provide directions to each.
Frequently, a specific birding location will be a combination of two or more habitats. For example, the
pond by the incinerator near the Zukeyama Reservoir area will have present the species of the pond
itself, such as Common Gallinule, and the typical species of the pines and brushland that surround the
pond, such as Brown-eared Bulbul and Great Tit.
Ocean. Since Okinawa is an island, one habitat that must be considered is the open ocean that
surrounds it. I did not make any attempt to explore this habitat by pelagic birding trips. My personal
observations were restricted to finding the dead remains along shore of a Streaked Shearwater and a
probable Japanese M urrelet. Close to shore are found terns and an occasional gull.
Intertidal Area. The areas of the island's perimeter that are uncovered when the ocean waters are
at low tide vary in both the amount of area exposed and the composition of the bottom. Locations in
which there is a large surface area uncovered are usually good places to look for shorebirds. The
intertidal area exposed may consist of coral reef, rocks, sand, mud, or various combinations of the above.
The composition of the area exposed is usually significant in so far as preferences of different species
are concerned. Good intertidal areas for birding are located adjacent to the U. S. military hospital at
Chatan; along the coast of the M achinato area; and on the Pacific side of the island by the Kawata
sugarcane factory on Route 33, along the shore just south of the base of the Katsuren peninsula. Birds to
be found in this type of habitat are various species of shorebirds. Pacific Reef-Egret, Blue Rock Thrush,
Osprey, terns and an occasional gull.
One way to view shorebirds is to determine where they spend their time at high tide. At this time
they will usually be bunched together and inactive which can make for easier viewing. Good places to
look are expanses of undisturbed area immediately adjacent to the highest point that the water reaches.
Favorite locations of mine were the Hamby Airfield (Chatan Power Plant) and the Sunabe land fill, on
either end of the Chatan intertidal area.
Estuary. Where river meets the ocean tide. I mention this separately as a habitat to differentiate the
mouth of the Kokuba River from the other intertidal areas. In my opinion this is the best location to see
shorebirds on Okinawa. The river widens to a great degree before reaching the ocean, and this large
expanse is profoundly influenced by the tides. At low tide, a large expanse of soft mud is exposed. In
this location, depending upon the season, many species of shorebirds can be found, as well as species of
egrets, ducks, terns, and an occasional gull or Osprey.
Freshwater Reservoirs. Almost, if not all significant expanses of fresh water on Okinawa are
reservoirs. The Little Grebe can usually be found on reservoirs, and repeated trips in season will provide
a variety of ducks, such as the Tufted Duck, Garganey, and Spot-billed Duck. Common Gallinules may
be found around reedy edges. The Zukeyama Reservoir and Ishikawa Reservoir were the ones I visited
most. Others can be found by looking at an updated map.
Pond. This term is intended to describe a much smaller area of fresh water than the rather large
expanse of the normal reservoir. The pond is a relatively small, shallow expanse of water with reeds and
better cover than that provided by reservoirs. Some portions of the perimeter of the reservoirs are similar
to the pond habitat. The only example of this type of habitat that I found was the pond by the incinerator
near Zukeyama Reservoir. Here I found Common Teal, Spot-billed Duck, Common Gallinule, Common
Kingfisher, and in one instance Cinnamon Bittern.
Streams. Some particular birds are likely to be found in or adjacent to streams. A significant factor
of course is the location of the stream, i.e. the type of habitat bordering the stream and its proximity to
the ocean for estuary effects. Several locations which I found to be productive were the stream at
Nakoshi, Hiji stream east of the Akamaru Peninsula, the stream running through the broad-leaf forest
adjacent to the Oku logging trail, and one located next to Route 104 (directions given under Ruddy
Kingfisher). Associated with streams I have found Green-backed Heron. Common and Ruddy
Kingfishers, Common Gallinule and Grey Wagtail.
Pines and Brushland. I believe that in earlier times most of Okinawa except for the elevations
above approximately 250 meters in the northern portion of the island was covered by a forest of pines
mixed with a lush broadleaved underbrush. It was this type of vegetation that was cleared away for
villages and fields. The significance of this is that it is such vegetation that remains in patches of various
sizes, wherever clearing has not taken place in the less inhabited areas and bordering cultivated fields.
Species that are commonly found in this type of habitat are the Brown-eared Bulbul, Great Tit, Japanese
White-eye, Japanese Bush Warbler, Red-capped Green Pigeon, and Grey-faced Buzzard.
Broadleaf Forest. This is the habitat found on the higher elevations of the mountains of northern
Okinawa. As one gains elevation, the pines become mixed with the broadleaf species and then only the
dense broadleaf forest remains. This transition occurs at approximately 250 meters in my estimation. In
the spring this habitat is very rich in bird song. In addition to the species mentioned for pines and
brushland, the following species are found in the broadleaf forest: Varied Tit, Japanese Pygmy
Woodpecker, Okinawa Woodpecker, Ashy M inivet Large-billed Crow, Ryukyu Robin, Japanese Wood
Pigeon, and Japanese Paradise Flycatcher. Flocks composed of Japanese White-eyes, Great and Varied
Tits, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, and possibly a Japanese Paradise Flycatcher or Ashy M inivet
wander throughout the forest. As one walks along the trail little will frequently be seen or heard.
Suddenly, one of these mixed flocks will move through the area and the surrounding trees and bushes
will be alive with 15 to 50 birds. Examples of this habitat are M t. Yonaha, Mt Nishime, and the area
surrounding the Oku logging trail.
Fields. I am including here fields of several types. Large grassy areas which are kept mowed, such
as lawns in front of the military hospital at Chatan and on Kadena Air Force Base may have Lesser
Golden Plover, Oriental Turtle Dove, White Wagtail, pipits, Pale Thrush close to wooded borders and
possibly Pacific Swallows hawking for insects above the grass. Unkept areas with tall grasses and some
brush will support Barred Buttonquail, Japanese Bush Warbler, Fan-tailed Warbler, Eurasian Kestrel,
Grey-capped Greenfinch, wagtails, and the birds mentioned above for maintained fields. Fields that are
close to the ocean may also get various species of shorebirds at high tide.
Rice Paddies. When flooded, rice paddies provide essentially marsh habitat and will attract ducks,
snipe and other species of shorebirds, Common Gallinule, Plumed Egret, and wagtails. When dry, they
provide essentially the field habitat. I have walked down the trails between the rice paddies south of
Hentona at the base of the Akamaru Peninsula with good results. Unfortunately, I found out how rich
this type of habitat was towards the end of my time on Okinawa. Be careful not to take any action that
would destroy crops, such as walking in planted fields or breaking down the narrow mud dikes.
Inhabited Area. This type of habitat varies from the most densely inhabited cities such as Naha,
to the more sparsely settled residential areas mixed with gardens and lawns. Needless to say, as man's
pressure decreases, the number of species of birds that can be seen increases. The Rock Dove and Tree
Sparrow can usually be found with little difficulty in the cities and villages. As more lawns and gardens
are included, birds of the pines, brushland and field habitats may be present. Pacific Swallows may nest
on some buildings.
GOOD BIRDING LOCATIONS
Listed below are my favorite places for birding on Okinawa. They are numbered from north to
south so that the number can be used to indicate their approximate location on the accompanying map. I
have given a short name to each location. These names will be used frequently throughout the text and
this section may be consulted for more explicit information on the locations.
M any of the locations do not have well established local names known to me, so the name I have
given some places must be used in conjunction with my, descriptive information and map in order to
find the location. With this information, I feel these locations can be found, even though names of
landmarks and road numbers, etc. mentioned in this book may in time change. Obtaining more definitive
maps of Okinawa will be extremely helpful in your own birding and explorations.
1. Hedo Point. This is the northernmost point of Okinawa and is a very scenic area. As one stands
on the rocky point, about 150 feet above the waves below, the beautiful panoramic view of ocean, reef,
and the northeast coast of Okinawa is exhilarating. The area south of the point consists of cultivated
fields, tall grass, pine and fir trees, with mountains in the background. Hedo Point is easily reached by
taking Highway 58 north. When you have passed the Kayauchi Banta Precipice, another extremely
scenic lookout well worth a stop, watch for the sign indicating the turn off to Hedo Point, as the main
road continues on around the other side of the island. It is about a three hour drive, one way, from
Kadena Air Force Base.
On Nov. 6, 1970, at 10:00 a.m. while standing on Hedo Point, I observed a flock of about 20 birds
coming from the south fly over the point and continue out over the ocean in a general northerly direction.
They were land birds of a species that I could not identify as I could not see them in enough detail. They
were about the size of a large thrush, all brown above, some white below with a long, narrow tai1. The
flock was moving in extended, relaxed flight several hundred feet above the height of the point. I felt
sure that I was watching a migrating flock of birds and speculated that this would be an interesting
location in which to spend some time during peak migration periods, especially in the spring.
On M ay 27, 1973, I visited Hedo Point with Philip H. Warren during the last birding trip of my tour
on Okinawa. Swifts and swallows were flying all over the point and surrounding fields in a spectacular
manner. During the period from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. we saw approximately 30 white-throated Needletails,
15 House Swifts. 3 Red-rumped Swallows, 5 Sand M artins, 5 Barn Swallows and 30 Pacific Swallows.
It would be worth a trip or trips in the last half of M ay in an attempt to duplicate this experience.
2. Oku Logging Trail. At Hedo Point, the main road (Highway 58 ) turns south and runs inland
through the higher elevations of the northern tip of Okinawa. When the road once again meets the ocean,
it is at the little village of Oku. What I have called the "Oku logging trail" meets Highway 58 1.3 miles
north of Oku. As you begin approaching Oku from the north, keep watching for the trail on your right. It
meets the main road at an oblique angle and the vegetation is heavy, so it is not that conspicuous. Logs
may be stored by the side of the road and will assist in finding its location if they are present. If you
reach Oku without finding the trail, turn around and head north more slowly, watching for the trail on
your left approximately 1.3 miles from the village.
The logging trail runs through a lush broadleaf forest mixed with pine in some places. It is wide
enough to bring logs and charcoal, out of the forest by horsecart and is about two miles long with a
number of side trails. Park your car along the main road and walk down this trail. The trail follows a
beautiful stream through the forest and provides access to a lush, green paradise that otherwise could not
be penetrated. It is the most beautiful forest trail that I have found on Okinawa.
Among the more noteworthy forest birds that I have seen along this trail are the Varied and Great
Tits, Japanese Paradise Flycatcher. Ashy M inivet, and Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker. This trail should
also provide good habitat for the Ruddy Kingfisher, although I never saw any at this location.
Another good location to explore in the Oku area is the large valley directly across from the village.
One can drive along the access road from Oku as it passes through cultivated fields and undeveloped
areas including streams to arrive at the end of the valley in forest area once again.
3. Beach south of Oku. This is the best name I can think of for this beautiful, isolated beach,
approximately three miles south of Oku. That mileage is just a guess, as I do not have the exact figures
in my notes. From a birding standpoint, this beach is mentioned because it was here that I sighted the
frigatebird and found the remains of a dead Streaked Shearwater. However, I am also listing this area for
its stark beauty in the hopes that you too may visit it.
Traveling south from Oku, the main road (which I believe is now called Highway 329 at this point)
again runs inland and then rejoins the ocean. As you drive south along the cliffs above the ocean, keep
watching to your left for a beautiful stretch of white beach in the distance that has a line of surf breaking
along a parallel reef offshore. When you spot this area, it is rewarding to stop along the road for a scenic
overview and pictures. The sound of the surf is fantastic. Tall cliffs are between this beach and the road.
As you continue to travel south along the road, it loses elevation and becomes approximately the
same level as the beach and some sandy beach is adjacent to the road. Continue on and the road will
pass behind a cliff. The beach you want is on the other side. Soon you will come to the spot where there
is a break in the cliff and a small stream runs out to sea. Park along the road and walk out to the beach.
If you have come as far as this beach, the trip back offers some interesting alternatives. One is to
continue south, then cut back across the island on Route 2. This can be done in a normal passenger car if
one is careful and there have not been recent heavy rains. It is well worth it, for one sees a transect of the
northern portion of the island. Large portions of the adjacent forest, however, have been burned, cleared,
and replanted with pine for its commercial value as pulp.
Another alternative is to continue down the Pacific side of the island. When I was there this
required a four-wheel drive vehicle to get past certain bad portions of the road, but was a very
interesting and beautiful isolated route.
4. Akamaru Peninsula. This productive area is located on the west side of northern Okinawa at
the base of M t. Yonaha. The military Okuma Recreation Area is located at the tip of this peninsula. A
small golf course is located in the recreation area and is bordered by pine groves for a portion of its
perimeter. Tall fir trees are also located throughout the area. The tip of the peninsula is rocky, but
beautiful white sandy beaches are located on either side. This is a good area for winter residents and
spring migrants with M arch being an excellent time for a visit.
Birds here are best observed at first light, before the majority of guests are up and about. A walk
along the wooded margin of the golf course can be particularly rewarding. On various stays at Okuma I
have seen Dusky and Pale Thrushes, Brambling, Eurasian Siskin. Grey-capped Greenfinch, and both
Yellow-throated and Black-faced Buntings.
The base of the peninsula is a large cultivated area, mostly devoted to rice paddies. This is a rich
habitat, especially during spring and fall. By walking along the numerous access roads through these
fields it is possible to see a number of species. In this area I have seen Plumed Egrets, shorebirds,
especially snipe, wagtails, and the Grey-capped Greenfinch.
As one approaches the Akamaru Peninsula from the south, driving on Highway 58, they will notice
a number of large antennas rising on their left. The rice paddies mentioned above are located at the base
of these antennas and just across Highway 58 from the small village of Okuma. The larger village of
Hentona is at the northern base of this peninsula (cape). Highway 58 crosses a large cement culvert
carrying stream water to the ocean. On the north side of this culvert, a road turns left and leads to the
Okuma recreation center. On the way to the recreation center, this road crosses a little pond and marshy
area. Look here for such species as the Green-backed Heron and Common Gallinule.
5. Mt Yonaha. One's best chance of seeing the endemic Okinawa Woodpecker is at the top of Mt.
Yonaha, the tallest mountain on Okinawa with an elevation of 498 meters. To drive up the rough logging
road leading to the top, a four-wheel drive vehicle is a definite necessity. The road starts up the mountain
from Highway 58, just before Highway 58 crosses the cement culvert mentioned above. Follow this road
until it joins another road that leads up the mountain. Turn left and continue up this road. (If you turn
right, it will lead through a little village and enter on Highway 58).
As this road winds up the mountain it passes through mixed pine and broadleaf forest, past many
areas that have been cleared to grow pineapples and other crops. As the elevation increases the road gets
rougher, there are no more cultivated areas, and the forest becomes entirely of the broadleaf type. Areas
towards the top have been logged in various places and logging roads turn off in a number of places, but
try to stay on the main road, and when in doubt take the road leading to the summit. I do not believe the
summit area is actively logged any more as a certain portion of this area is protected for the Okinawa
Woodpecker, thus the road leading to the summit may show evidence of disuse. Upon reaching the
summit continue down the other side and watch for a turn off to your right, approximately 1/4 to 1/2
mile down hill from the summit.
Park your jeep at this turn off. The logging trails in this area provide access through an otherwise
unpenetratable forest. If you take the trail to the left of the turnoff it will come to an end in a relatively
short distance. The trail to the right goes downhill in a circle to the left and continues for a long distance
through the forest including a number of branching trails. This is an exciting area to explore and I
believe one of the trails joins the logging area on the other side of the valley. The drive up the mountain
covers 5.6 miles from the start at Highway 58 until one parks at the turn off. By jeep it takes
approximately one hour.
I have made this trip 16 times and spent a considerable amount of time walking the trails through
the forest. I have seen at least one Okinawa Woodpecker on seven of those occasions and heard its call
on five other occasions when I was not able to see it. Thus by my calculations, if you find this location
and spend several hours walking the trails, you have a 75% chance of seeing or hearing an Okinawa
Woodpecker. For best results, begin the drive up the mountain as soon as it is light.
I have seen a total of 18 different species of birds on M t. Yonaha. M y trip totals never exceeded 12
species and usually were 9 or 10. This is the best area in which to see such species as Red-capped Green
Pigeon, Japanese Wood Pigeon, Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker, Varied Tit, Ashy M inivet, Ryukyu Robin,
Japanese Paradise Flycatcher, and some of the more common species like the Great Tit and Japanese
White-eye. In late February and M arch the area is filled with beautiful bird song, especially that of the
Japanese Bush Warbler.
As one walks along the trails, few birds may be spotted initially. I have found that most birds are
seen when one happens upon wandering, loose flocks of birds crossing the trail as they work their way
through the forest. Birds usually seen in these mixed aggregations are Japanese White-eyes, both Great
and Varied Tits and the Japanese Pygmy Woodpecker. A Japanese Paradise Flycatcher or Ashy M inivet
may also be seen in these groups. The flocks move across an area pretty fast, so it is necessary to
thoroughly scan each bird aggregation first, to insure a rarity will not be overlooked.
6. Nakoshi Stream. As one travels north from Nago on Highway 58, cutting across the base of
the M otobu Peninsula, the ocean will again be met on the north side of the peninsula at the intersection
of Route 124 and the town of Nakoshi. The stream mentioned, in this paragraph runs adjacent to
Highway 58 for a short distance just before its intersection with Route 124, then curves under a bridge
on Highway 58 and joins the ocean in a small estuary area.
The stream is located in a depression adjacent to the road, approximately 20 feet deep. The
depression is well vegetated on both sides, with pine trees and brush on the far side and considerable
sand and gravel areas are exposed in the stream bed. There is a small area along the road above the
stream where one can park and carefully scan the stream bed to good advantage.
At this location I have frequently seen the Common Kingfisher, both Grey and White Wagtails, and
various species of shorebirds. I have also seen the Green-backed Heron, Black-faced Bunting, and on
one occasion the White-breasted Waterhen. I once saw a flock of four Little Egrets at the stream outlet
area. In late August, numerous swallows perch on phone wires adjacent to the bridge and roads in this
area and I have seen a few Barn Swallows and many Pacific Swallows here.
I made it a habit to check the Nakoshi stream each time I passed by on my travels to and from
northern Okinawa, and was usually rewarded for my efforts. Also in this area, just south of the
intersection with Route 124, is the intersection of an excellent road leading to the top of Mt. Tano (369
meters). It is well worth the time to make this trip. At the start the road crosses the Nakoshi stream at an
earlier point and provides another good viewing location, then winds up the mountain through both pine
and broadleaf forest habitats and provides some very scenic lookouts.
7. Kin Peninsula. Travel north up the Pacific side of the island on Highway 329. Just after the
intersection with Route 104, the road gains elevation. Pull off the road at the top of this hill and you will
be able to look down on a fairly large stream with good cover along the margins, leading from a small
reservoir on the west side of the road through cultivated areas on its way to the ocean. Then continue
down the hill until you have crossed the bridge over the stream. On your right will be an access road that
leads in a general direction along the stream until it reaches the ocean via a marsh and estuary. This is an
interesting area to explore and offers opportunities for shorebirds and others of the stream, marsh and
8. Ishikawa Reservoir. This rather small reservoir is located approximately in the middle of one
of the narrowest portions of the island, just north of Route 6 and west of Ishikawa. While traveling up
Route 6 from Highway 58, take a dirt road that turns off to the north as Route 6 approaches its summit.
If you follow this road to the end it will take you into the city of Ishikawa. However, as you travel down
this dirt road which turns to the east, watch on your right hand side for a rather open area that has
suffered considerably from the dumping of trash and has a couple of broken down, small buildings.
Pull off the road here and walk back towards the open area and you will have found the reservoir.
At one end there is a dam and a scenic view from the dike over the agricultural areas above Ishikawa.
The opposite end of the reservoir can be reached by walking or driving back up the road and hiking back
in to the reservoir through cultivated fields and undergrowth. This is the best end of the reservoir for
birding, because fingers of the water run back into areas that are almost inaccessible and provide much
cover from trees and vegetation.
This reservoir is a good area to check periodically for ducks. I have seen Tufted Duck, Garganey,
and Falcated Teal here. However, judging by the number of shotgun shells and duck feathers that I have
found scattered about, I would say that it is also a well-frequented local hunting area. The reservoir is
surrounded by a forest of pines and undergrowth except for the dam.
9. Yomitan Airfield. This area comprises many acres of flat land with tall grasses and some
bushes. M any small plots of land have been cultivated and several aircraft runways are present. A
number of dirt access roads travel throughout the area. This is a good area to look for the Barred
Buttonquail, Fan-tailed Warbler, Eurasian Kestrel, Oriental Turtle Dove, shorebirds, and other species. I
obtained fresh specimens of a Common Skylark and Short-eared Owl that had been shot by hunters in
To reach the Yomitan area from Kadena, travel north on Highway 58 and continue past the Route 6
turn off to the Zanpa Cape or Peninsula. Watch for a turn off to your left (west) onto a road that
apparently leads straight back to an uninhabited area through tall grass and brush. Some experimentation
may be necessary as I believe the road is unmarked. Researching the location beforehand with a map
will prove helpful. Once you have found the area, try slowly driving along the many access roads to the
cultivated plots, watching for birds as you go. Be careful of the runways that are sometimes active with
10. Zukeyama Reservoir and Pond by Incinerator. The Zukeyama Reservoir is to my
knowledge the largest body of fresh water on Okinawa. The majority of its perimeter is bordered by pine
forest and dense undergrowth. A few Little Grebes can usually be found by scanning its surface with
binoculars and I have seen several species of ducks and the Common Gallinule. While this location has
never lived up to my expectations, it is worth an occasional check during migration periods and the
winter months to see what is there.
The pond by the incinerator was shown to me by a local hunter and I do not think that I ever would
have found it by myself. I have coined this name as I am unaware of any local name. This pond has a
rather open area of water adjacent to a cultivated field. From this open area, fingers of water run back
between a series of ridges that are densely vegetated with pine trees and undergrowth, affording good
cover. M any reeds and dead trees are also found in the water. Unfortunately, during my last year on
Okinawa, they began dumping raw sewage above this pond and the resulting run off caused a massive
growth of algae in the pond. Unless this practice is stopped, the future for this unique area is not good.
The most common species at this pond is the Common Gallinule. I have also observed Spot-billed
Duck and Little Grebe, and on two occasions I saw a Cinnamon Bittern. The surrounding habitat of
pines and cultivated land also have their species to offer. The sewage flat above the pond attracts Green
Directions to the pond and reservoir are difficult. They are located approximately at the intersection
of imaginary lines drawn due east from Yomitan Airfield and northeast at a 45 degree angle from
Kadena Air Force Base. The direction of Kadena's runways point just below the reservoir dam, although
the reservoir cannot of course be seen from the base because it is too far away. If you look northeast
from the northeastern end of Kadena's runway, you should see off in the distance a tall column that was
painted in bright red and white circles when I was there. This is the smokestack of an incinerator. Using
a little experimentation, find the way to that incinerator.
The back (east) gate of Kadena Air Force Base just south of the runway, enters onto a paved road
leading to the town of Kadena. If one were leaving the back gate of Kadena Air Force Base, they could
cross this road and continue in a generally eastern direction on a smaller road. Take this road and turn
left as soon as you get on it. This dirt road crosses a stream and leads back through cultivated areas.
Keep trying until you find the route that leads to the incinerator smokestack.
Just before reaching the incinerator, on your left you will find a field, a patch of pines and brush, a
dirt road to the left, and then the incinerator. The pond is in the low area of this patch of pine and brush.
View the pond from the field. You will have to walk back along the border, as it is not visible from the
After the pond, but before you drive up to the incinerator, a dirt road turns off to the left. This road
leads back to the reservoir. It is best to park your car at the end and walk down a steep dirt road about
100 yards which will lead you right to the edge of the reservoir. Another road from Highway 329 leads
to the other side of the reservoir, but it is not as desirable from a birding point of view.
11. Shore adjacent to Kawata Sugarcane Factory. A sugarcane factory is located along
Route 33, just outside the town of Kawata, at the southwestern corner of the base of the Katsuren
Peninsula. A large flat area is located adjacent to the ocean's edge at this location, which remains
exposed at high tide and affords shorebirds a place to rest until the waters recede. This is an ideal area to
observe shorebirds and I have seen the highest concentrations of Eurasian Curlews and Black-bellied
Plovers at this location. I have also observed the Common Black-headed Gull here. For best results, visit
this area at high tide.
A stone wall runs along the edge of the shore here, and on the landward side are reeds, marsh, fir
trees, bushes, and ponds of brackish water affected by the tide. This interesting habitat in general offers a
number of species and I have seen Eurasian Siskins in the fir trees on one occasion.
12. Chatan Intertidal Area. A large intertidal area exists in the Chatan area, directly across
Highway 58 from the military hospital at "Camp Kue." This area is bordered on the north by the
Sunabe landfill and on the south by the Chatan power plant, the outlet of the Chatan River, and the
During low tide a large area of mud and sand flats are exposed in this location. Some rock and coral
are also exposed. This is a very good area for shorebirds during the proper seasons.
During high tide outstanding birding possibilities exist on the adjacent Sunabe landfill. One can
drive around on the landfill, preferably in a four-wheel drive vehicle, and observe concentrations of
resting shorebirds. The area is flat with rather sparse vegetation and occasional puddles, depending upon
recent weather. During periods of heavy rains, it can become quite muddy with a resulting danger of
getting your car stuck. In addition to shorebirds, I have also seen ducks on the landfill.
It is also worth checking Hamby air strip for shorebirds resting at high tide, although one can not
get as close due to a fence. In addition to various species of shorebirds, I have seen Yellow Wagtail,
Oriental Pratincole, and Red-throated Pipit on the grassy areas at this airstrip.
13. Minatogawa Intertidal Area (Machinato Service Area). This area is on the west coast of
Okinawa, south of Ginowan City and north of Naha. Traveling south on Highway 58, several blocks
after crossing the M akiminato River, take the main road to your right leading out to M inatogawa and the
M achinato Service Area. After going past the gatehouse of the M achinato Service Area, you will travel a
short distance and come to a grassy field on your right with several antennas standing in it. Park here
and walk out onto the reef area at low tide. One map in my possession refers to this area as Kusu Cape.
This location is mentioned because the area exposed at low tide is mostly rock and coral with very
little sand or mud, resulting in a different mix of shorebirds than at a mud or sand flat. In addition to
shorebirds, I have seen Spot-billed Ducks, Grey Herons, and one Slaty-backed Gull in the intertidal area
or the ocean adjacent to it.
The grassy field also offers some good possibilities. In addition to shorebirds resting at high tide, I
observed a Brown Shrike, Yellow Wagtails as well as the two more common species of wagtails, and the
14. Kokuba River. The Kokuba River is located in Naha and empties into Naha Port. As the river
runs toward the ocean from interior Okinawa, it widens into a vast shallow area called "M an-Lake"
which has also been referred to as the Onoyama M arshland Game Reserve. This area is an estuary and is
profoundly affected by the tides. At low tide, almost the entire area is a mud flat. At high tide the area is
covered with a shallow layer of water. Even though this area is grossly polluted, it is the most productive
shorebird habitat on Okinawa.
It is easy to locate this area on a good map and you can experiment to find good observation points.
To reach my favorite location, take the last main road to your left before crossing the bridge over the
river while traveling south on Highway 58. Follow this road through the city (the river can not be seen
while on this street) until it begins veering off to the left. Turn right on a road that leads across a small
bridge which crosses a small tributary leading into the large area of the Kokuba River. Just on the other
side of this bridge, turn right down a road that follows this tributary out to the large expanse of the
Kokuba estuary. Watch for shorebirds as you slowly travel down this road. Park your car at the end and
walk out to the point. You should be located at the area where the narrow Kokuba River widens into the
large estuary area, "M an-Lake." This provides an excellent view of the entire expanse. If you have a
scope, this is an ideal occasion on which to use it.
At low tide, one may be tempted to try and wade out over the mud flat in order to get closer to the
birds. However, at almost any location the mud and, silt will not support a person's weight and feet sink
into the mud as if it were quick sand. I have found, however, that from this point, if one wades out a few
steps into the main stream which appears as a small trickle of water down the middle of the mud flat at
low tide, they can wade out into the middle of the estuary from this point before they start running into
the soft type of silt.
The north border of the river is solid with city buildings. The south border has less habitation and in
some areas, there is vegetation and cultivated areas providing cover at the edge. Try birding the Kokuba
River at different tidal stages. M y favorite time was when high tide was giving way to low tide. At high
tide the birds are bunched up, but as the tide lowers and more area is exposed, they begin to move out
onto the mudflat to feed.
In addition to being an outstanding area for shorebirds, this area is also good for egrets, herons,
ducks, terns, and an occasional gull. Great Egrets and Grey Herons are pretty consistent at this location
during the migration periods and over the winter months. The vegetation along the south border of the
river also adds species from the field, pines, and brushland habitats. On Nov. 11, 1970, I listed 27
species of birds at this location, which was the highest number of species I saw at any one location on
BIRDS RECORDED FROM OKINAWA
This chapter will present a list of 190 species of birds thus far recorded from the island of Okinawa
and its surrounding waters. The list is based on my own observations of 115 species, birds reported for
Okinawa by the Check-List of Japanese Birds, Fifth and Revised Edition -1974, Prepared by the
Ornithological Society of Japan; and Short, 1973b. When used as a reference in this chapter, the
Check-List of Japanese Birds will be referred to as, "C.L.J.B." Nineteen species listed have not been
reported for Okinawa by the C.L.J.B. or its 1975 Addenda and Corrigenda and will be indicated by an
A summary of my observations will be presented for those species that I have observed. The
summary will generally cover where my observations took place and the habitat preferred by the species,
the dates or ranges of my sightings, and the status of the species on Okinawa if I have made enough
sightings of the species to draw a conclusion. For directions to most locations mentioned in this chapter,
see the chapter on Good Birding Locations. For those nonresident species that I have a significant
number of sightings, I will express the dates of those sightings in a range of occurrence, such as Sep. 12
- Apr. 17. This would indicate that my observations have shown that this species is found on Okinawa
during the general range of those dates. The range of dates reported are based on my observations alone,
and will certainly be expanded for most species as additional observations are made.
Where possible, I have classified species as residents, transients (passage migrants), summer
visitors and winter visitors. When I believed that sufficient data existed, I have also classified species as
abundant, common, and uncommon. These are subjective classifications that assume one is looking in
the right place and at the right time and generally mean: abundant - almost always seen and in numbers
over 25; common - usually seen and in numbers less than 25; and uncommon - infrequently seen and
usually in very low numbers. I have not attempted to classify species as accidental, stragglers, or rare
due to insufficient data. The main objectives of my comments are to provide a summary of my
observations and insofar as possible to assist others birding on Okinawa to locate a given species.
Species which are reported for Okinawa by the C.L.J.B., but which I have not seen will be listed
without comment or will be listed with brief information reported by the C.L.J.B. or other reference
which is pertinent to the status of that species on Okinawa. I would suggest that serious students of the
birds of Okinawa or elsewhere in Japan obtain a copy of the Check-List of Japanese Birds.
In using references concerning the birds of this area, one must be extremely careful in determining
which species is being discussed, as there is a wide variation in common names and even in the
scientific nomenclature. The nomenclature and order of species used in this book generally follow King
and Dickinson, 1975. In a few cases I have used a common name other than the primary name used by
King and Dickinson and I have used the A.B.A. Checklist to arrange most species of the order
Charadriiformes. Other references were used in the nomenclature and arrangement of those species not
covered by King and Dickinson. Following the comments, if any, for each species, I have listed in
parentheses other common and scientific names that have been used in the recent literature to refer to the
species recorded from Okinawa. The list of other names is not all inclusive, but will assist in correlation
with other literature.
ORDER PODICIPEDIFORM ES
Family Podicipedidae: Grebes
1. LITTLE GREBE Podiceps ruficollis
I have frequently observed this species on the fresh water reservoirs throughout Okinawa and
observed one at a nest in the pond by the incinerator, near the Zukeyama Reservoir, from Jul. 3 - Aug. 2,
1970. On the large reservoirs they must be looked for with care as they are small and fond of repeatedly
diving below the surface. Some of the population is resident and appears to be augmented by winter
visitors. M ost of my observations occurred during the period October through M arch.
ORDER PROCELLARIIFORM ES
Family Procellariidae: Petrels. Shearwaters
2. BONIN PETREL Pterodroma hypoleuca
The C.L.J.B. reports a 1971 record. for Okinawa.
3. STREAKED SHEARWATER Calonectris leucomelas
I found the remains of a dead member of this pelagic species on the beach south of Oku on M ay 7,
1972. The flesh of the bird was for all practical purposes gone, although the wings were still feathered
and measurements could be made as well as the determination of color patterns. I believe the bird was
dead at least a month or two before I found it. (Puffinus l.).
Family Hydrobatidae: Storm-petrels
4. SWINHOE'S STORM -PETREL Oceanodroma monorhis
(O. socorroensis, O. leucorhoa)
ORDER PELECANIFORM ES
Family Phalacrocoracidae: Cormorants, Darters
5. TEM M INCK'S CORM ORANT Phalacrocorax filamentosus
Ono, 1953, lists the status of this species as a winter visitor and states, "Observed by Ono at
Katsuren, Okinawa. Very Common." (P. capillatus).
Family Fregatidae: Frigatebirds
6. GREAT FRIGATEBIRD Fregata minor
One adult male was observed flying south along the shore, approximately three miles south of Oku,
on Sep. 3, 1972, at 11:00 a.m. I first saw it with the naked eye as it flew right over my head at an
elevation of about 50 feet. The entire plumage was black. It flew along the water's edge with a rather
slow, deliberate flight. Every now and then, it folded its wings in and dove down close to the water.
(Pacific Frigate Bird).
ORDER CICONIIFORM ES
Family Ardeidae: Herons, Egrets, Bitterns
7. GREY HERON Ardea cinerea
This species can be seen most reliably at the Kokuba River, although I have seen it on one occasion
each at the M inatogawa intertidal area and in flight over the rice paddies of the Akamaru Peninsula. M y
range of sightings are from M ar. 5 - M ay 15, and Oct. 24 - Dec. 12, during which I saw from one to nine
individuals at a time. The most consistent sightings of the larger numbers were from middle Nov. to
early Dec. at the Kokuba River. The status appears to be that of a transient during migration, although
some may be winter visitors.
8. PURPLE HERON Ardea cinerea
Reported for Okinawa by Addenda and Corrigenda to C.L.J.B.
9. GREEN-BACKED HERON Butorides striatus
My range of sightings for this winter visitor is from Nov. 1 - M ar. 31, with frequent observations
during that interval. It apparently ranges throughout Okinawa, most frequently beside streams or other
sources of fresh or brackish water. Good places to look are the Nakoshi stream and the stream leading
into the cement culvert from the rice paddies of the Akamaru Peninsula. It is usually seen singly. (Green,
M angrove, Little, Streaked, or Striated Heron).
10. CATTLE EGRET Bubulcus ibis
My only sighting of this species on Okinawa was on Apr. 18, 1970, when I observed a flock of 20
mixed with four Plumed Egrets perched in trees on farmland east of Kadena Air Force Base. At this time
the Cattle Egrets were in partial breeding plumage. On M ay 10, 1970, while on Iheya Island, west of the
north tip of Okinawa, I saw a flock of ten Cattle Egrets standing in a field with cattle. The C.L.J.B.
states that breeding Cattle Egrets from Japan migrate through the Ryukyus to the Philippines, etc.
11. PACIFIC REEF-EGRET Egretta sacra
This is a resident species commonly seen along the coast of Okinawa. There are two color phases
of this species, one solid white and the other solid bluish-gray. On Okinawa they seem to occur with
about equal frequency. I have seen several white individuals mottled with some dark patches. (Reef
Heron, Reef Egret, Eastern Reef Heron; Demigretta s.).
12. GREAT EGRET Egretta alba
With two exceptions, my sightings of this common species were confined to the Kokuba River and
ranged from Oct. 10 - M ay 9. The concentrations were heaviest in Nov. and Dec. with up to 30
individuals present at one time. On M ar. 28, 1970, I saw a Great Egret perched on a pine tree adjacent to
the Ishikawa Reservoir, and on Oct. 10, 1971, I saw three on the lawn next to the runway of Kadena Air
Force Base. Distinguishing this species from the Plumed Egret and even the Little Egret can be difficult
under certain field conditions. The Great Egret is a transient and winter visitor. (Large Egret, Great
White Egret; Casmerodius albus).
13. PLUM ED EGRET Egretta intermedia
My sightings of the Plumed Egret range from Oct. 24 - Apr. 18. The October and November
sightings of this transient and winter visitor were birds mixed with Great White Egrets at the Kokuba
River. From late December forward, I had several good sightings of from 5 to 15 individuals foraging in
the rice fields of the Akamaru Peninsula and Hentona area. (Intermediate Egret).
14. LITTLE EGRET Egretta garzetta
My three confirmed sightings of this species occurred during the range of M ar. 20 - M ay 2. One
was seen perched on trees at the Ishikawa Reservoir with a Great Egret. Four were seen together at the
entrance of the Nakoshi stream into the ocean. One was wading in the stream at the mouth of the estuary
of the Kin Peninsula. Cogswell (1948) reported sighting one bird in the Kadena area on Aug. 22, 1945
and four at the Kokuba River on Sep. 26, 1945. Baker (1948) reported the collection of one female on
Heianza Shima (small island east of Katsuren Peninsula) on Aug. 2, 1945. He noted that the specimen
was molting wing feathers when shot.
It is possible that some of the white egrets that I have seen far out in the middle of the Kokuba
River were Little Egrets, but I was never able to obtain a good confirmed identification. For one thing,
the slimy black mud of the Kokuba makes every egret appear to have black feet.
15. BLACK-CROWNED NIGHT-HERON Nycticorax nycticorax
16. JAPANESE NIGHT-HERON Gorsachius goisagi
The C.L.J.R. states that this species winters through the Ryukyus and lists Okinawa as a locality
record. Its habitat preference is indicated as footzone forests along water courses in evergreen
broad-leaves. (Japanese Bittern).
17. YELLOW BITTERN Ixobrychus sinensis
Baker (1948) reported the collection of one male and one juvenile male at Hentona on Aug. 9 and
31, 1945. (Chinese Little Bittern, Chinese Least Bittern).
18. CINNAM ON BITTERN Ixobrychus cinnamomeus
I saw one individual of this species on Jul. 26, and Sep. 3 and 7, 1970, at the pond by the
incinerator near Zukeyama Reservoir. Baker (1948) reported the collection of specimens on M ay 2, Jun.
7, Aug. 17 and 31, and Sep. 19, 1945, in rice fields at Nago, Kashuren-Wan, and Hentona.
Family Ciconiidae: Storks
19. WHITE STORK Ciconia ciconia
According to the C.L.J.B., occasional single stragglers migrate to Japan from the continent. A
locality record is listed for Okinawa in 1967.
ORDER ANSERIFORM ES
Family Anatidae: Geese, Ducks
20. BEAN GOOSE Anser fabalis
On Oct. 22, 1972, while birding along the shore adjacent to the Kawata sugarcane factory, I heard
the call of a goose. I looked up and saw a Bean Goose in flight towards the shore, and it looked like it
would land. It changed its mind and flew south along the shore out of sight.
21. LESSER TREEDUCK Dendrocygna javanica
The C.L.J.B. lists Okinawa as the northernmost locality record for this species in Japanese territory.
It states that in the Ryukyus, this species lives, secretly in small parties in a rather relict condition. Its
habitats are indicated as marshes, flooded rice fields, and in mangroves. (Indian Whistling Duck, Indian
22. COM M ON SHELDUCK Tadorna tadorna
23. COM M ON PINTAIL Anas acuta
I observed this species on two occasions at the Kokuba River. On Nov. 11, 1970, I photographed
three females in company with a Common Pochard, and on M ar. 4, 1972. I saw a flock of 22, containing
both males and females. (Pintail).
24. COM M ON TEAL Anas crecca
I have seen these ducks in small numbers in sightings ranging from Feb. 1 - Apr. 1 and Oct. 2 - 17.
This species is a passage migrant and probable winter visitor. I have seen them at the pond by the
incinerator by the Zukeyama Reservoir, Ishikawa Reservoir, and on a puddle-studded Sunabe land fill.
25. SPOT-BILLED DUCK Anas poecilorhyncha
I have seen this species throughout the year and found it breeding at the pond by the incinerator
near the Zukeyama Reservoir. I do not know whether the same individuals stay on Okinawa the year
around, and tend to doubt that they do. These ducks are usually seen in small numbers on the reservoirs
and at the pond by the incinerator. In January 1970, I saw five on exposed reefs at the M inatogawa
intertidal area. In June 1971, I observed a flock of about 20 on three occasions at the pond by the
incinerator. (Spotbill Duck).
26. M ALLARD Anas platyrhynchos
I never saw a live M allard on Okinawa, although local duck hunters assured me that they were
there. On Dec. 4, 1971, I was shown the remains of a dead male that had been shot about two weeks
earlier in a marshy area east of Kadena Air Force Base.
* 27. FALCATED TEAL Anas falcata
I observed a pair at the Ishikawa Reservoir on M arch 10, 13, and 17, 1971.
28. EURASIAN WIGEON Anas penelope
(Wigeon, European Widgeon )
* 29. GARGANEY Anas querquedula
The following observations occurred at the Ishikawa Reservoir: a pair on M ar. 28, 1970; one male
and three females on Apr. 1, 1970; five on Oct. 2, 1971; and six on Oct. 22, 1972. Two were seen in
puddles at the Sunabe landfill on Sep. 25, 1971.
30. NORTHERN SHOVELER Anas clypeata
31. COM M ON POCHARD Aythya ferina
I observed and photographed one male at the Kokuba River on Nov. 11, 1970. (Pochard).
32. TUFTED DUCK Aythya fuligula
Up to four individuals were observed from the middle of M arch through April at the Ishikawa
Reservoir and at the pond by the incinerator near Zukeyama Reservoir. The Tufted Duck was also seen
in late October at the Ishikawa Reservoir. I observed this species of duck second in frequency to the
33. GREATER SCAUP Aythya marila
I observed one female on Dec. 24, 1970, on the Zukeyama Reservoir. (Scaup).
34. M ANDARIN DUCK Aix galericulata
This species is listed by the C.L.J.B. as a breeding species on Okinawa.
35. RED-BREASTED M ERGANSER Mergus serrator
36. COM M ON M ERGANSER Mergus merganser
(Goosander, American M erganser).
ORDER FALCONIFORM ES
Family Pandionidae: Osprey
37. OSPREY Pandion haliaetus
During the winter months, while traveling along the perimeter of Okinawa, an Osprey may
occasionally be observed hovering above the ocean. They are fairly common winter visitors, and with
the exception of one sighting on July 25, 1971, my observations range from Oct. 25 - M ar. 19. On three
occasions I have seen them at the Kokuba River, once after a massive fish kill due to chemical pollution.
Family Acclpitridae Kites, Hawks, Eag1es
38. BLACK KITE Milvus migrans
The C.L.J.B. calls this species a straggler in the Ryukyus and lists Okinawa as a locality record.
39. WHITE-TAILED EAGLE Haliaeetus albicilla
(Gray Sea Eagle).
40. JAPANESE SPARROWHAWK Accipiter gularis
Short (1973b) reported sighting three definite and probably four others of this species in hill forest
during the period Feb. 2-9, 1972. (A. virgatus; Japanese Lesser Sparrow Hawk).
41. CHINESE GOSHAWK Accipiter soloensis
(Chinese Sparrow Hawk, Horsfield's Sparrow Hawk).
42. GRAY-FACED BUZZARD Butastur indicus
This is the most common bird of prey on Okinawa. One or two will usually be sighted during the
winter months on birding trips in suitable habitat. It is frequently found perched on a phone wire or pole
adjacent to a field or rice paddy. It also frequents residential areas if there are trees present and sufficient
undisturbed area in which to hunt; and is found in the mountainous areas of northern Okinawa. The
species ranges over the entire island, wherever suitable habitat is found and my sightings range from Oct.
18 to M ar. 21.
The C.L.J.B. states that this is a marked migratory species through the Ryukyus to the Philippines
and concentrates especially on M iyako Island, South Ryukyus, during migration. (Gray-faced
Buzzard-Eagle, Eastern Buzzard, Frog Hawk, Eastern Buzzard-hawk).
43. ROUGH-LEGGED BUZZARD Buteo lagopus
44. CREATER SPOTTED EAGLE Aquila clanga
The C.L.J.B. lists this species as a rare straggler. Takara and Kuroda, N.h. (1969) present a
photograph of a Greater Spotted Eagle obtained in Nov. 1968 on Okinawa. (Spotted Eagle).
45. EURASIAN KESTREL Falco tinnunculus
This is a relatively common winter visitor and should be looked for wherever the field type of
habitat is found. I often observed a Eurasian Kestrel hovering over the fields of the Yomitan Airfield
area. M y sightings range from Oct. 31 - M ar. 10. (Kestrel).
46. PEREGRINE FALCON Falco peregrinus
ORDER GRUIFORM ES
Family Turnicidae: Buttonquail
47. BARRED BUTTONQUAIL Turnix suscitator
This is a common resident of fields and cultivated areas. I experienced many sightings, including
one or two adults with two black chicks about the size of ping-pong balls on Oct. 16, 1971, at the
Sunabe landfill. I frequently saw this species at the Yomitan airfield area and in the cultivated areas
between Kadena Air Force Base and the Zukeyama Reservoir. These birds can be flushed from fields
with difficulty, but are most easily seen as they cross dirt roads through fields or farming areas.
(Button-Quail, Bustard Quail).
Family Gruidae: Cranes
48. COM M ON CRANE Grus grus
49. WHITE-NAPED CRANE Grus vipio
50. SIBERIAN WHITE CRANE Grus leucogeranus
The C.L.J.B. lists this species as a straggler to Japan and indicates a 1969 record for Okinawa.
Family Rallidae: Rails, Crakes, Coot
51. WATER RAIL Rallus aquaticus
* 52. SLATY-LEGGED CRAKE Rallina eurizonoides
Short (1973b) reported observations of two in rice paddies near Ada, on the northeast coast of
Okinawa, during: Feb. 2-9, 1972. (Banded Crake).
53. RUDDY-BREASTED CRAKE Porzana fusca
The C.L.J.B. lists Okinawa as a locality record for this species and states that it is resident in the
Ryukyus. (Ruddy Crake).
* 54. WHITE-BREASTED WATERHEN Amaurornis phoenicurus
My only sighting of this species was on Feb. 27, 1972, at the Nakoshi stream. As I was looking at
the stream, I saw it fly from the bordering brush to the sand at the edge of the water, take a few quick
steps, then fly back in the brush again In five minutes I saw it walking on the other side of a little mound,
then fly back in the brush again.
55. WATERCOCK Gallicrex cinerea
56. COM M ON GALLINULE Gallinula chloropus
This species is a common resident of Okinawa and is found along margins of reservoirs, in streams,
ponds, flooded sugarcane fields, and in rice paddies. The earliest I have seen chicks was on M arch 28,
1970. The pond by the incinerator near Zukeyama Reservoir was a particularly good location for this
species. (Common M oorhen, M oorhen).
57. COM M ON COOT Fulica atra
ORDER CHARADRIIFORM ES
Family Rostratulidae: Painted Snipes
58. GREATER PAINTIED SNIPE Rostratula benghalensis
Baker (1948) reported the collection of one female in a rice paddy at Takaesu on M ay 15, 1945.
Takaesu is near Kawata. (Painted Snipe).
Family Haematopodidae : Oystercatchers
59. COM M ON OYSTERCACHER Haematopus ostralegus
Family Recurvirostridae: Stilts, Avocets
60. BLACK-WINGED STILT Himantopus himantopus
At the Kokuba River, I observed one individual on Nov. 11, and two on Nov. 18 and 22, 1970. I
also observed one Black-winged Stilt at the Kokuba River on Dec. 11, 1971.
61. PIED AVOCET Recurvirostra avosetta
The C.L.J.B. lists this species as accidental with a reported observation in Okinawa in 1973.
Family Charadriidae: Plovers
62. NORTHERN LAPWING Vanellus vanellus
I observed one individual at the Kokuba River on M arch 5, 1972. (Lapwing).
63. LITTLE RINGED PLOVER Charadrius dubius
This is a common shorebird during the fall. M y observations range from Sep. 25 to M ar. 28.
However, with the exception of two sightings of two birds each in late M arch, my observations range
from Sep. 25 to Jan. 28. Two good locations for this species are the Kokuba River and Sunabe land fill.
64. SNOWY PLOVER Charadrius alexandrinus
This species can be found on Okinawa at any time of the year and is extremely common except
during the summer. It has similar habitat preferences to those of the Lesser Golden Plover. I observed an
adult with three chicks on M ay 1, 1971, at the Hamby airstrip in the Chatan area. (Kentish Plover).
65. M ONGOLIAN PLOVER Charadrius mongolus
The M ongolian Plover is a common species during the spring and fall migrations. A few probably
spend the winter. While I had several sightings in October and December, M ost were concentrated into
the periods of M ar. 4 - M ay 15 and Aug 7 - Sep. 26. Good locations are the Chatan intertidal area,
Sunabe landfill, and the Kokuba River. On Apr. 8, 1973, I saw a flock of about 250 on the tidal flat
adjacent to the Kawata sugarcane factory.
66. GREATER SAND PLOVER Charadrius leschenaultii
Baker (1948) reported the collection of one male and one female on July 30, 1945 on Heianza
Shima. The location is Henza Island, now connected by a causeway to the Kathuren Peninsula (Cape).
(Large Sand Plover).
67. CASPIAN PLOVER Charadrius asiaticus
I observed a male of this species at the edge of an old aircraft runway in the cultivated fields of the
Yomitan airfield area on M arch 15, 1970. (Eupoda asiatica; Eastern Dotterel, Oriental Dotterel).
68. LESSER GOLDEN PLOVER Pluvialis dominica
This species is easily found in all seasons except summer and is abundant during the spring and fall
migrations. It is found at intertidal areas, the Kokuba River, and on lawns, fields, and rice paddies. My
observations range from August 7 to M ay 15. (Charadrius dominicus; American Golden Plover, Eastern
69. BLACK-BELLIED PLOVTER Pluvialis squatarola
This is a common migrant and winter visitor if one is looking in the right place. M y sightings of
this species range from August 23 to April 8. While I have seen Black-bellied Plovers at the Kokuba
River, they seem to prefer intertidal areas that have considerable rock or coral areas exposed. The best
place that I have found is the tidal flat adjacent to the Kawata sugarcane factory. (Squatarola squatarola;
Family Scolopacidae : Sandpipers, Phalaropes
70. BLACK-TAILED GODWIT Limosa limosa
I have observed this uncommon migrant through Okinawa on seven occasions and all sightings but
one were at the Kokuba River. In a series of four trips to the Kokuba River from M ay 2 - 15, 1971, I saw
three on M ay 2, forty on M ay 8 and 9, and four on M ay 15. I saw one or two individuals on each of
three occasions ranging from Aug. 29 to Nov. 22, 1970.
71. BAR-TAILED GODWIT Limosa lapponica
This is an uncommon migrant. I observed one on four occasions ranging from Sep. 1 to Nov. 18,
and one on Apr. 8. The sightings occurred at the Chatan intertidal area, Sunabe landfill, Kokuba River,
and the shore adjacent to the Kawata sugarcane factory.
72. WIM BREL Numenius phaeopus
During my observations this species appeared as a common migrant in low numbers during the
spring and fall. I never saw more than eight at one location. With the exception of one individual
observed on Jan. 4, my sightings range from Apr. 23 - M ay 7 and Aug. 15 - Oct. 25. The Chatan
intertidal area and Sunabe landfill are good locations to observe this species.
73. EURASIAN CURLEW Numenius arouata
This conspicuous species is a common winter visitor and passage migrant. The dates of my
observations range from August 7 to M ay 1. I usually saw five or fewer individuals at a particular
location; however, on Dec. 11, 1971, I observed 30 Eurasian Curlews on the tidal flat adjacent to the
Kawata sugarcane factory. Other good locations for this species are the Chatan intertidal area and
Sunabe landfill at high tide. (Curlew, Common Curlew, Indian Curlew).
74. EASTERN CURLEW Numenius madagascariensis
I have seen this species on on1y three occasions. On Jan. 4, 1970, I saw a flock of 15 sitting quietly
on a patch of exposed rock in the M inatogawa intertidal area. As I approached, they flew away as a
group, showing only brown coloration on the upper parts. On August 9 and 14, 1971, I observed one
Eastern Curlew associated with two Eurasian Curlews at the Chatan intertidal area.
This species can be easily overlooked and assumed to be a Eurasian Curlew, as they are very hard
to tell apart unless one sees them in flight. The upper parts of the Eastern Curlew are brown, while the
Eurasian Curlew in flight shows a conspicuous white rump extending to the lower back. (Australian
Curlew, Far Eastern Curlew).
75. SPOTTED REDSHANK Tringa erythropus
76. COM M ON REDSHANK Tringa totanus
(Redshank, Eastern Redshank).
77. M ARSH SANDPIPER Tringa stagnatilis
I have seen this transient on only two occasions. On M ay 2, 1971, I had an excellent sighting of one
individual at the Kokuba River with Greenshanks available for comparison. This species resembles the
Common Greenshank, but is smaller with more delicate construction, and has a straight, needle-like,
black bill. On Sep. 12, 197l, I saw one in the rice fields at the base of the Akamaru Peninsula near
78. COM M ON GREENSHANK Tringa nebularia
This species is a fairly common transient which I have usually seen in low numbers, up to six at
one location. M ost of my sightings of this species were at the Chatan intertidal area or Kokuba River
and ranged from Apr.24 - M ay 15 and from Aug. 7 to Dec. 26. During Oct. 24 - Nov. 11, 1970, I saw
groups of 30 on three occasions at the Kokuba River. (Greenshank).
79. GREEN SANDPIPER Tringa ochropus
This is a relatively common fall migrant, but I have only seen one individual in the spring. I usually
encountered them singly or in pairs along streams, drainage ditches, marshy areas, or in rice paddies. I
frequently observed them in the area where sewage was dumped, adjacent to the pond by the incinerator
near the Zukeyama Reservoir. When flushed, these birds usually give a panicked, piercing cry. This
species is difficult to distinguish from the Wood Sandpiper. My sightings range from Aug. 14 - Jan. 8.
One individual was sighted on Apr. 24, 1971. (T. ocrophus).
80. WOOD SANDPIPER Tringa glareola
My sightings of this somewhat uncommon migrant occurred on M ay 8, and from Aug. 14 - Oct. 22.
Its habitat preferences are similar to those of the Green Sandpiper with which it can be easily confused.
During September and October- of 1971, I saw as many as nine Wood Sandpipers at the Sunabe land fill
in the numerous puddles, caused by heavy rains, surrounded by tall grass.
81. TEREK SANDPIPER Xenus cinereus
M ost of my observations of this common migrant have occurred at the Chatan intertidal area and at
the Kokuba River. Although I have logged this species on 18 occasions, the sightings fall into the rather
restricted ranges of M ay 1 - 15 and Aug. 7 - Sep. 25. I usually saw from one to six individuals per
sighting, but on one occasion saw twenty.
82. COM M ON SANDPIPER Actitis hypoleucos
This is a very common species except for late M ay through July. My numerous sightings range
from Aug. 7 to M ay 9. I also saw one individual on Jul. 18. This species may be found at the usual
shorebird areas as well as along streams, ponds, and reservoirs. Most sightings were of one to six birds
per location. (Tringa hypoleucos).
83. GREY-TAILED TATTLER Heteroscelus brevipes
This is a common to abundant migrant and should be looked for in any good shorebird habitat. I
have found it quite numerous at the Chatan intertidal area and at the Kokuba River. My sightings range
from Apr. 24 - M ay 27 and Aug. 7 - Jan. 25. I also saw 10 Grey-tailed Tattlers on July 5, 1971, at the
estuary on the Kin Peninsula.
The highest numbers of this species occur during the first half of M ay and during the last portion of
August and first half of September. From M ay 8 - 15, 1971, I saw 200 at the Kokuba River. (Tringa
brevipes; Asian Wandering Tattler. This was formerly regarded as a subspecies of Heteroscelus (Tringa)
incanus; Wandering Tattler, American Wandering Tattler).
84. RUDDY TURNSTONE Arenaria interpres
The Ruddy Turnstone is a common migrant found at intertidal areas, estuaries, and on suitable land
adjacent to intertidal areas at high tide. My sightings range from Aug. 7 - M ay 15. The greatest numbers
occurred during April - M ay and August - September, although a few individuals are winter visitors. The
Sunabe landfill and Kokuba River are good locations to view this species. Although the usual sighting is
of 2-20 individuals, I saw 150 at the Kokuba River on M ay 8, 1971. (Turnstone).
85. EURASIAN WOODCOCK Scolopax rusticola
This species appears to be an infrequently seen migrant and winter visitor. On Nov. 22 and Dec. 9,
1971, I found a fresh road kill, each time in the Awase residential area. Fields and brushy areas were
close by. On Feb. 26, 1972, I flushed a Eurasian Woodcock from a clearing adjacent to the edge of pine
groves on the tip of the Akamaru Peninsula in the Okuma Recreation Area. (Woodcock).
86. PINTAIL SNIPE Gallinago stenura
87. SWINHOE'S SNIPE Gallinago megala
Baker (1948) reported the collection of one male and three females on August 9 and 31, 1945, from
rice fields at Hentona. (M arsh Snipe).
88. COM M ON SNIPE Gallinago gallinago
This species is a common migrant and winter visitor. My sightings range from Oct. 2 to M ar. 28.
This bird likes mud or marshy areas with tall grass or other cover close by. They are secretive and
usually not seen until flushed. Using my jeep to slowly approach puddles in the tall grass of the Sunabe
landfill, I was able to get good close observations of this species and other shorebirds that ordinarily will
not permit close approach.
Good locations for this species are the rice paddies at the base of the Akamaru Peninsula near
Hentona, the Sunabe landfill, and the reedy margins along the Kokuba River. In flight, the Common
Snipe can be distinguished from other species of snipe (which are almost impossible to identify unless
collected) by a conspicuous white rear edge on the secondaries of the wings.
89. GREAT KNOT Calidris tenuirostris
I observed six of this species at the Kokuba River on M ay 8 and 9, 1971. (Asiatic Knot).
* 90. RED KNOT Calidris canutus
I observed two Red Knots in breeding plumage at the Kokuba River on M ay 9, 1971 (Knot, Eastern
91. RUFOUS-NECKED STINT Calidris ruficollis
The Rufous-necked Stint is an abundant fall migrant and fairly common during spring migration.
My range of sightings is Aug. 7 - Jan. 25 and Apr. 9 - M ay 9. Greatest numbers occur during the latter
half of August and during most of September. This species can be found in any good shorebird location.
(Erolia r.; Red-necked Stint, Little Stint, Rufous-necked Sandpiper).
* 92. TEM M INCK'S STINT Calidris temminckii
I observed one on Oct. 16, and three on Oct. 17, 1971, at the Sunabe landfill. (Erolia t.).
93. LONG-TOED STINT Calidris subminuta
I have identified one or two birds of this species on only three occasions ranging from Oct. 16 -
Nov. 1. It is probably more common than the above would indicate, however, as it is very difficult to
separate this species from the other common "peeps" unless seen at close range. M y first confirmed
sighting was made possible by a very unusual incident at the Kokuba River.
I watched a small shorebird (a Long-toed Stint) fly directly into the ground and act stunned. I
walked over to it, and when I was within ten feet of it, it flew and landed a short distance away. I
crouched down and began photographing it as it slowly walked back to within three feet of me. In this
case it was even possible to see its very long middle toe with the naked eye. (The C.L.J.B. and a number
of other references consider the Long-toed Stint to be a subspecies of Calidris (Erolia) minutilla, the
94. SHARP-TAILED SANDPIPER Calidris acuminata
I observed up to 40 of this species at the Kokuba River from M ay 2-9, 1971. (Erolia a.; Siberian
Pectoral Sand piper).
95. DUNLIN Calidris alpina
My sightings of this species range from Aug. 7 through the winter to M ay 1. From August until the
first week of November, I would usually see up to about 10 Dunlin at one location. From the second
week in November through about the third week in December, I saw from 70 - 200 of this species at the
Kokuba River. Numbers seem to fall off rapidly after December and I saw very few Dunlin in the spring.
* 96. CURLEW SANDPIPER Calidris ferruginea
My only observation of this species occurred at the Kokuba River on M ay 2, 1971, when I saw six
individuals in breeding plumage. (Erolia f.).
* 97. BROAD-BILLED SANDPIPER Limicola falcinellus
I saw a bird of this species on three occasions at the Sunabe landfill and once at the Ishikawa
Reservoir during the period Sep. 25 - Oct. 16, 1971. On Oct. 2, I observed a Broad-billed Sandpiper
working through a shallow flooded field on the Sunabe land fill and drove my jeep as close to it as I
could without disturbing it and parked. The bird gradually circled around and came right back within ten
feet of my Jeep, allowing me to get excellent photographs of it.
98. RUFF Philomachus pugnax
Family Glareolidae: Pratincoles
99. ORIENTAL PRATINCOLE Glareola maldivarum
From one to three individuals were consistently sighted at the Hamby airstrip, located adjacent to
the Chatan power plant, during the period April 24 - M ay 5, 1971. They sat rather quietly on the grassy
area of the airstrip, but would frequently leap into flight, fly around in a large circle, and return to land in
approximately the same place. (Glareola pratincola; Indian Pratincole, Pratincole).
Family Laridae: Gulls, Terns
100. COM M ON BLACK-HEADED GULL Larus ridibundus
From Nov. 11 - 22, 1970, five - six individuals were observed at the Kokuba River. Two were seen
at the Kokuba River on Dec. 11, 1971, and one was observed well and photographed at the shore
adjacent to the Kawata sugarcane factory on Dec. 11 and 12, 1971. (Black-headed Gull).
101. HERRING GULL Larus argentatus
The C.L.J.B. reports this species as a straggler in the Ryukyus and lists Okinawa under the locality
* 102. SLAIY-BACKED GULL Larus schistisagus
On Jan. 10, 1970, I observed one Slaty-backed Gull perched on the exposed coral area at the ocean
edge of the intertidal area near M inatogawa in the M achinato Service Area. The gull was observed well
and appeared to be feeding. It moved from coral outcrop to outcrop and occasionally splashed
vigorously into the water from a standing position.
103. BLACK-TAILED GULL Larus crassirostris
104. WHITE-WINGED BLACK TERN Chlidonias leucopterus
The C.L.J.B. lists Okinawa as a locality record for this species based on observation. From Nov. 11.
- 22, 1970. I observed one to two Chlidonias terns at the Kokuba River on three occasions, but could not
be sure of the exact identification of the species. (Sterna leucoptera; White-winged Tern).
105. COM M ON TERN Sterna hirundo
106. ROSEATE TERN Sterna dougalii
The C.L.J.B. states that this species is known to breed in the northern Ryukyus (Amami-oshima
and Tokunoshima) and occurs around other islands. It lists Okinawa as a locality record.
I have observed this species on four occasions ranging from Aug. 21 - Sep. 2. I saw three on the
intertidal area adjacent to Ukaji, just north of the Zanpa Cape. I also saw four at the Chatan intertidal
In 1971, I observed a spectacular concentration of this species on a rock islet off the northeast shore
of Yagaji Island, near the village of Airakuen. On Aug. 21, I saw about 200 Roseate Terns in this area,
sitting on the sand at the eroded base of the rocks during low tide and flying about over the area, some
with little fish in their bills. They were making a lot of noise. The flock contained some immatures. On
Aug. 25, I returned to this area. The flock had apparently decreased to about 100, with a greater
proportion of immatures, maybe 20 out of the 100. The bills of the adults were solid red during the
sightings at Yagaji, as well as on those seen at Ukaji. King and Dickinson (1975) state that the bill of the
Roseate Tern is sometimes all red in breeding season.
107. BLACK-NAPED TERN Sterna sumatrana
The C.L.J.B. states that the northern limit for this species is the Ryukyus, where it occurs as a
summer breeder. I observed Black-naped Terns on three occasions ranging from M ay 27 to Aug. 21. On
M ay 27, 1973. I watched 8 individuals on rocks above the surface of the shallow ocean water close to
shore, adjacent to Highway 58, north of the Akamaru Peninsula. One had a small fish in its beak and
was being pursued by another.
Later that day I saw a flock of 20 on rocks in the ocean at the tip of the Akamaru Peninsula (Okuma
Recreation Center). On June 10, 1972, approximately six individuals were flying about over the harbor
at Naha. On Aug. 21, 1971, I photographed one Black-naped Tern amongst a large flock of Roseate
Terns at Yagaji Is1and.
108. SOOTY TERN Sterna fuscata
The C.L.J.B. states that this is a pelagic species that breeds on sandy and pebbly beaches. It is
listed as breeding on Kamiyamajima, off Naha.
109. LITTLE TERN Sterna albifrons
The Little Tern is a common migrant through Okinawa with some individuals remaining as summer
visitors. My observations range from Apr. 19 - Sep. 19. They are usually common at the locations
mentioned in this book for shorebirds and may be seen at many other locations along the perimeter of
Okinawa. On July 5, 1971, I was driving up the east coast of Okinawa and saw approximately 40 terns
circling and diving in the large, shallow ocean bay north of the Kathuren (White Beach) Peninsula.
While too far away to positively identify, I feel confident that they were Little Terns.
I continued driving to the estuary and ocean at the tip of the Kin Peninsula. Here I saw 10 definite
Little Terns resting at the water's edge. There are some rather large, steep, jagged rock islets about 1/2 -
1 mile off shore from the Kin Peninsula. As I looked at them through my field glasses, I saw many terns,
probably Little Terns, flying about. These rock islets may serve as a breeding area for terns, and it would
be interesting to check this possibility by boat. (Least Tern).
110. GREAT CRESTED TERN Sterna bergii
(Thalasseus bergii; Swift Tern, Crested Tern)
111. BROWN NODDY Anous stolidus
On Sep. 17, 1945, Baker (1948) reports that one juvenile female was collected at Benoki, and one
juvenile female was collected at Hentona. He states on page 30, "The Noddy Terns were collected on the
coast following a 2-day typhoon. When taken, the specimens appeared exhausted and in poor physical
condition. These were the only Noddy Terns seen." (Noddy, Noddy Tern).
Family Alcidae: Auks, M urres, Puffins
112. ANCIENT M URRELET Synthliboramphus antiquus
Concerning this species, Ono (1953) reports on page 21, "Obtained by Oshiro, who is a
schoolmaster of Sate Kunigami, a specimen." (Ancient Auk).
113. JAPANESE M URRELET Synthliboramphus wumizusume
The C.L.J.B, lists Okinawa as a locality record for this species. On Jan. 23, 1972, at the Hyakuna
beach in the Tamagusuku area, I found a dead murrelet that could have been either this or the above
species (Synthliboramphus sp.). The entire body and wings were well preserved with feathers and flesh,
however, the head and neck were skeletonized. (Japanese Auk).
ORDER COLUM BIFORM ES
Family Columbidae:. Pigeons, Doves
* 114. WHITE-BELLIED PIGEON Treron sieboldii
On Jan. 10, 1971, while walking up a new logging trail through broadleaf forest west of Oku, I
flushed two green pigeons. I watched as they perched in nearby trees, then flew into the forest. At least
one had bright maroon shoulder patches and a light-colored belly, which are not found on the
Red-capped Green Pigeon. Short (1973b) also reports sighting this species on Okinawa. (Sphenurus s.;
Japanese Green Pigeon).
115. RED-CAPPED GREEN PIGEON Treron formosae
This is an uncommon to common resident throughout the island, wherever there are significant
areas of trees. I have observed this species in both broadleaf and pine trees. It is most easily found in the
Mt. Yonaha area, however, I found a fresh road kill in the vicinity of the intersection of Routes 5 and
130, in the Zukeran area, near Kubasaki High School. Also in this area, I observed a Red-capped Green
Pigeon that had been stunned after flying into the window glass of a residence. I have seen this species
on eight occasions during my stay on Okinawa. It is difficult to notice this bird's presence due to its solid,
olive green color and habit of remaining in the foliage of trees. (Sphenurus f.; Riu-kiu Green Pigeon,
Whistling Green Pigeon).
* 116. ROCK DOVE Columba livia
This species is commonly seen in and around the cities and villages. (Rock Pigeon).
117. JAPANESE WOOD PIGEON Columba janthina
This is a resident species of dense broadleaf forest I observed one on M t. Yonaha on Sep. 11, 1971
and three on M ay 27, 1973. I have also heard its call on M t. Yonaha on several occasions. Its call is very
distinctive and sounds something like the mooing of a sick cow.
118. RYUKYU WOOD PIGEON Columba jouyi
This species is probably extinct. According to the C.L.J.B., its former range was the central
Ryukyu Islands and the Daito Islands, however it is listed as extinct on Okinawa since 1904, and extinct
on the Daito Islands since 1936. Its habitat is listed as subtropical forest.
Greenway (1967) describes this species on page 303 as follows: "A large black pigeon (length
about 18 inches). The size along with the pale gray stripe across the shoulder distinguishes it. Entirely
slaty black with purple metallic reflections on the head and green on the lower back. A pale gray stripe
across the upper back." (Riu Kiu Wood Pigeon).
119. ORIENTAL TURTLE DOVE Streptopelia orientalis
This species is a very common resident distributed throughout Okinawa. It can be found on lawns
and in fields, secondary growth, and forest areas. (Rufous Turtle Dove, Eastern Turtle Dove).
ORDER CUCULIFORM ES
Family Cuculidae: Cuckoos
120. COM M ON CUCKOO Cuculus canorus
121. ORIENTAL CUCKOO Cuculus saturatus
122. LESSER CUCKOO Cuculus poliocephalus
Baker (1948) stated that this species was observed in hilly areas, and reported the collection of one
female specimen at Hedo on Sep. 29, 1945. Short (1973b) observed one to two birds on three days
during Feb. 2-9, 1972. He reported that, "M r. Arakaki, who knows the birds of Okinawa well, assured
me that C. poliocephalus regularly occurs on Okinawa." (Little Cuckoo).
ORDER STRIGIFORM ES
Family Strigidae: Owls
123. COM M ON SCOPS OWL Otus scops
The C.L.J.B. reports this species as resident on Okinawa. (Scops Owl).
124. COLLARED SCOPS OWL Otus bakkamoena
Baker (1948) notes that owls were observed in pine trees near villages, and reports the collection of
one juvenile male of this species at Hedo on Aug. 26, 1945. Short (1973b), reporting on his Feb. 2-9,
1972, visit to Okinawa, states the following about O. bakkamoena on pages 264-5: "Several on M t. Ibu,
common on Yonaha M ountain. . . . Although frequently heard, the owls proved extremely difficult to
observe, keeping to dense, tangled vegetation near the ground. Glimpses of them enabled me to see that
they were eared, large scops owls, and hence of this species. Calls were heard frequently throughout the
day, but especially in the morning, and are a loud, whistled wheeow-wheeow or less commonly a
wh-wheeow-wheeow. M r. Arakaki informed me that in M arch and April the calls become mainly
three-noted rather that two-noted. Apparently the species is common in undisturbed forest and perhaps
in forest plantations." (Otus asio; Screech Owl). The C.L.J.B. notes on p. 170, "This species may be
related (superspecifically) with North American Otus asio, but better separated as species."
125. BROWN HAWK-OWL Ninox scutulata
My only sighting of this species occurred on June 28, 1970. I observed a small owl perched on a
large dead tree in forest area next to Highway 58, 2.3 miles north of Oku. I first sighted the Brown
Hawk-Owl at 11:OO a.m. and spent over 45 minutes taking many excellent pictures of it. I moved to
within 20 feet of it before it flew to another branch. After photographing and watching it to my heart's
content, I drove further south. when I again passed the owl on the return trip at 2:45 p.m., it was still
perched on the same tree.
Short (1973b) reported sighting one on M t. Ibu in Feb. 1972.
* 126. SHORT-EARED OWL Asio flammeus
On Feb. 19, 1970, I obtained a freshly killed specimen of this species that had been shot by a hunter
at the Yomitan airfield area. The hunter stated that their party was walking in a newly plowed area with
large furrows. The specimen was flushed while they were shooting at other birds. After the specimen
was shot, a second Short-eared Owl flushed from the same general area and flew off in the distance.
Both individuals flew up from the edge of the plowed area where it joined the grassy area of the field. I
stuffed the specimen, photographed it, and gave it to M r. Hideo Arakaki shortly before I left Okinawa.
ORDER APODIFORM ES
Family Apodidae: Swifts
* 127. WHITE-THROATED NEEDLETAIL Hirundapus caudacutus
On M ay 27, 1973. I observed approximately thirty of this species flying about over the Hedo Point
area. (Chaetura caudacuta, Hirundo-apus c.; Needle-tailed Swift, White-throated Needle-tailed Swift).
128. HOUSE SWIFT Apus affinis
I observed approximately 15 of this species flying about with other species of swifts and swallows
over the Hedo Point area on M ay 27, 1973. The C.L.J.R states on p. 177, "Status: Small isolated
breeding populations in warmer Pacific coast of Honshu, Shikoku to Okinawa. First found in 1965."
Care must be taken to distinguish this species from Apus pacificus, the Fork-tailed Swift, also
known as White-rumped Swift. Although reported from locations in both the north and south Ryukyus,
Apus pacificus has yet to be found on Okinawa. According to King and Dickinson (1975) the tail of
Apus pacificus is more deeply forked, with the fork still visible when the tail is fanned. Apus affinis has a
shallow fork in its tail which disappears when the tail is fanned. A. pacificus is also larger than A. affinis.
ORDER CORACIIFORM ES
Family Alcedinidae: Kingfishers
129. COM M ON KINGFISHER Alcedo atthis
This species is apparently a fairly common resident near fresh water. The C.L.J.B. records it as a
breeding species on Okinawa. I have seen it six times, with sightings in the months of January, February,
June, July, and November. The most productive location was at the Nakoshi Stream, while the other
observations were at the Zukeyama Reservoir and pond by the incinerator.
130. RUDDY KINGFISHER Halcyon coromanda
I first saw this beautiful kingfisher on Iheya Island, west of the north tip of Okinawa, on M ay 9,
1970. My second and final sighting occurred on Okinawa on July 5, 1971. I had traveled west on Route
104, 4.15 miles from its intersection with Highway 329, when I came to a little marshy depression on
the south side of the road. A little stream ran west through a dense thicket adjacent to the road. For two
hours. I sat quietly in this thicket on a bank above the stream to see what might come. Soon I was
rewarded with the presence of a Ruddy Kingfisher, beating its beak (which probably had something in
it) against a branch. This uncommon kingfisher prefers streams running through forest area, and should
be looked for along the Oku logging trail in addition to the above location. The C.L.J.B. reports this
species as resident in the Ryukyus.
Baker (1948) lists the following specimens collected in 1945: "Nago- 1 male, M ay 18; Koza- 1
male, June 6; Hedo- 1 juvenile male, Sep. 2; Benoki- 1 juvenile male, Aug. 22; Shana-Wan- 1 male, Sep.
13. Birds were found in forested areas."
131. BLACK-CAPPED KINGFISHER Halcyon pileata
Family Upupidae: Hoopoe
132. HOOPOE Upupa epops
ORDER PICIFORM ES
Family Picidae: Woodpeckers
133. JAPANESE PYGM Y WOODPECKER Picoides kizuki
This common resident is found in the mountain forest areas of northern Okinawa. It has a scratchy
voice, and its insect-like call is usually heard before the bird is detected. I have usually seen it associated
with mixed flocks of Great and Varied Tits. It is rather tame and can be approached closely. Good
locations to see this interesting little woodpecker are the Mt. Yonaha area and the Oku logging trail.
(Dendrocopos kizuki, Dryobates k.; Pygmy Woodpecker).
134. OKINAWA WOODPECKER Sapheopipo noguchii
This endemic woodpecker is found only in the mountain forests of northern Okinawa. One's best
chance of sighting this species is by walking the old logging trails at the top of Mt. Yonaha. My
observations of this species are described in detail in the next chapter. (Noguchi-gera, Pryer's
ORDER PASSERIFORM ES
Family Alaudidae: Larks
135. COM M ON SKYLARK Alauda arvensis
This appears to be an uncommon species on Okinawa and I have only had one experience with it. I
obtained, photographed, and stuffed a Skylark which was shot by a hunter at Yomitan airfield on Feb. 3,
1970. The C.L.J.B. states that northern Japanese breeders migrate as far south as the Ryukyus.
Family Hirundinidae: Swallows
* 136. SAND M ARTIN Riparia riparia
Five were observed in a mixed flock of swallows and swifts at Hedo Point on M ay 27, 1973. (Bank
137. BARN SWALLOW Hirundo rustica
This species is common during migration periods, especially during the fall. M y sightings range
from Aug. 21 - Sep. 13; and on M ay 27, 1973 at Hedo Point. Look for Barn Swallows in late August and
early September perched on phone wires adjacent to roads in the Nakoshi area and on the M otobu
Peninsula. A few can usually be found perched amongst the more numerous Pacific Swallows. (House
138. PACIFIC SWALLOW Hirundo tahitica
The Pacific Swallow is resident on Okinawa, and is commonly found at low elevations around the
periphery of the island. It is frequently seen flying low over fields or perched on phone wires adjacent to
cultivated areas. On M ay 1, 1970, I photographed a Pacific Swallow at its nest, built in a nook at the
fifth floor level of the U. S. military hospital. At least two dark-colored young were in the nest, which
was constructed of mud and attached to the building.
There may also be a transient population of this species on Okinawa. During late August and the
first half of September, large flocks of these swallows were found in the vicinity of the Nakoshi area, at
the northern base of the M otobu Peninsula. I observed these concentrations during trips to that area on
Aug. 23 and Sep. 13, 1970. On the latter date, several hundred Pacific Swallows were perched on the
phone wires along Routes 24 and 124 of the M otobu Peninsula, across the bridge on Highway 58 at
Nakoshi, and north along Highway 58 to the sugar mill. (Riu Kiu Bungalow Swallow).
* 139. RED-RUM PED SWALLOW Hirundo daurica
My only observation of this species was of three individuals identified in the mixed flock of
swallows and swifts seen at Hedo point on M ay 27, 1973. (Striated Swallow).
Family Campephagidae: Cuckoo-Shrikes, M inivets
140. ASHY M INIVET Pericrocotus divaricatus
The Ashy M inivet is a resident species of the northern Okinawa broadleaf forests. They are often
seen in flight overhead, making a scratchy call. In addition, they often associate with the roving flocks of
tits and White-eyes in nonbreeding season. I have seen juveniles of this species on June 24 and 25, and
July. 25. The Ashy M inivet is a fairly common species, which I observed most frequently on Mt. Yonaha,
followed by the Oku logging trail. (P. roseus; a note on page 216 of the C.L.J.B. states that P.
divaricatus and P. roseus form a superspecies and are sometimes considered conspecific.)
Family Pycnonotidae: Bulbuls
141. BROWN-EARED BULBUL Hypsipetes amaurotis
The Brown-eared Bulbul is a very common and widespread avian species on Okinawa. It is usually
found wherever there are patches of trees, from the top of M t. Yonaha to lowland residential areas. If the
bird is present, it will usually force itself on your attention with its dramatic, piercing and slurring call. It
is very noisy, the most vocal species on Okinawa. It is a resident species and I have seen it feeding
juveniles almost the size of an adult on June 7, and just recently fledged on July 6. In addition to the
resident population there may be transient members also. (Microscelis a., Ixos a.).
Family Corvidae: Jays, M agpies, Crows
142. CARRION CROW Corvus corone
The C.L.J.B. lists a M ay 1933 record for Okinawa.
143. LARGE-BILLED CROW Corvus macrorhynchos
This species is a common resident of northern Okinawa. My southernmost sighting occurred along
Highway 58, one or two miles south of Nago. They are frequently seen along the coast and at low
elevations, but seem to occur in the highest numbers and most consistently in the mountains. The Mt.
Yonaha area is very productive for the Large-billed Crow. (C. levaillantii, C. coronoides; Jungle Crow,
Family Paridae: Titmice
144. GREAT TIT Parus major
The Great Tit is a common and widespread resident and may be found wherever there are patches
of trees, at both low and the higher elevations. They are very common in the broadleaf forest area of M t.
Yonaha and the Oku logging trail. In the fall and winter months they are frequently found moving
through these forests in mixed flocks with Varied Tits, Japanese White-eyes, Japanese Pygmy
Woodpeckers, and occasionally Ashy M inivets. On Feb. 20, 1971, I watched and photographed a Great
Tit in the Mt. Yonaha area while it carried a large dangling piece of plant material from its bill, which I
assumed to be nest material. At one point, a Varied Tit landed in the same little tree and they briefly
fought. The Great Tit was seen in the same area about three minutes later, carrying the same piece of
145. V ARIED TIT Parus varius
The Varied Tit is restricted to the broadleaf forest of the northern Okinawa mountains, where it is a
relatively common resident. It is frequently found in mixed flocks during the nonbreeding season as
described above for the Great Tit. It should be looked for in the Mt. Yonaha area or along the Oku
Family Troglodytidae: Wrens
146. NORTHERN WREN Troglodytes troglodytes
Ono (1953) reports that he observed this species at Sate, Kunigami, Okinawa on Dec. 23-24, 1952.
(Wren, Winter Wren).
Family Turdidae: Thrushes
147. RYUKYU ROBIN Erithacus komadori
This species is found only in the Ryukyu Islands and on a few small islands off the southernmost
main Japanese island of Kyushu. It is approximately 5 1/2 inches long with solid, bright reddish-brown
upperparts. The male has a solid black lower face, neck and breast, forming a black bib. The belly is
solid white with a distinct line of demarcation between the black of the upper breast and the white of the
belly. The female lacks the black face, has a whitish throat patch outlined with gray edges, and has a
breast that looks like it has been smudged with charcoal. The posterior underparts of the female are
white. Legs are light, sort of yellowish.
I have seen this species on six occasions and detected its presence by call on three others. It is
resident on Okinawa and found only in the dense broadleaf forests at upper elevations on the mountains
of the northern part of the island. All of my observations of the Ryukyu Robin have been on M t. Yonaha
with the exception of one sighting on M t. Nishime.
The Mt. Nishime experience occurred on July 18, 1971, and was extremely interesting. I was
walking down a narrow footpath through rather dark, dense forest towards what sounded like a small
waterfall, when I heard the rustle of leaves behind me. I turned to see a female Ryukyu Robin hopping
down the path towards me. I crouched down and made a squeaking noise, and it hopped to within two
feet of me, showing no fear. I took several photographs with my regular (non-telephoto) lens, but soon
stopped because it was rather dark and the bird kept getting too close to me to focus.
It looked right at me and appeared curious. It used its beak to stir around in the leaves on the trail
for food and once flew up to some foliage and apparently ate something. It perched on several nearby
twigs. As it hopped, it kept its tail cocked up. It would also rapidly flick its wings out and in a couple of
times and bob its tail every so often. Once it spread its tail.
After hopping about close to me for about five minutes the bird made a severe scolding noise and
flew at another female Ryukyu Robin that was about thirty feet away.
On Mt. Yonaha. I have seen this species hopping on the dirt road near the summit as I was driving
up during the first hours of daylight. I have also encountered it while walking down a narrow footpath
through forest (be careful of the poisonous Habu snake) and while walking along the old logging roads /
Learning its call will help you locate this species. It has a very sweet sounding song which starts
out with a few notes and then finishes with a “tu-wit, tu-wit, tu-wit, tu-wit, tu-wit.” The accent is on the
second syllable. It also has a call that is "unbirdlike" and sounds like that of a frog. I used to pay no
attention to that sound until I saw this bird making it.
On p.265, Short (1973b) has the following comments concerning this species, “Common;
undisturbed woodland, woodland edges, and the edges of cultivated fields which recently had been
cleared. Sporadic singing was heard with two main song types: (1) teet-see, teet-see, too, and (2)
seeet-seeet, zeeto-zeeto, seeet-tsi-ti-ti-ti-ti-took, with a high, thin beginning, and almost a full trill toward
(Riu-kiu Robin, Temminck's Robin. The C.L.J.B. notes on p.233 that E. akahige and E. komadori
form a superspecies. E. akahige is the Japanese Robin.).
148. SIBERIAN RUBYTHROAT Erithacus calliope
The C.L.J.B. states that this species is said to have been observed on Okinawa. (Ruby-Throat).
149. RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL Tarsiger cyanurus
(Erithacus cyanurus; Orange-flanked Bush-Robin, Bluestart, Siberian Bluechat, Siberian Bluetail).
150. DAURIAN REDSTART Phoenicurus auroreus
My only sighting of this species occurred on M arch 11, 1972, when I observed a female in a grove
of pine trees at the Okuma recreation area on the Akamaru Peninsula. Short (1973b) reported the
sighting of a male in a ravine on M t. Yonaha in early February 1972.
* 151. STONECHAT Saxicola torquata
On Oct. 17, 1971, a female perched on a tall weed close to my jeep as I was parked on the Sunabe
landfill. It flew down to the edge of a puddle, back up to the weed and then flew away.
152. BLUE ROCK-THRUSH Monticola solitarius
This is a common resident species whose numbers may be seasonally increased by winter visitors
from other areas. It may be encountered anywhere along the rocky coastline and inland at low elevations.
Those not familiar with this species, may initially think that they are dealing with two different species,
as the sexes are different in appearance. The male is blue with a chestnut belly, while the female is
entirely brownish. While driving along the coast, one frequently sees the silhouette of this bird perched
on a rock.
153. SCALY THRUSH Zoothera dauma
The C.L.J.B. states that this species often winters in the Ryukyus and lists Okinawa as a locality
record. (Turdus dauma; White's Ground Thrush, White's Thrush, Tiger Thrush, Golden M ountain
154. BROWN-HEADED THRUSH Turdus chrysolaus
The C.L.J.B. reports this species as a winter visitor in the Ryukyus and lists Okinawa as a locality
record. (Brown Thrush, Red-bellied Thrush).
155. PALE THRUSH Turdus pallidus
The Pale Thrush is a common, widespread winter visitor. It is, however, rather inconspicuous and is
frequently noticed only when it is flushed, showing its white outer tail corners and giving its alarmed
call. It is usually found in forest or brushy areas, or on lawns or fields near protective cover as
mentioned above. My observations range from Nov. 27 - M ay 9. While it may be encountered in any
area of suitable habitat, I have found it most consistently while birding during winter in the M t. Yonaha
area. The C.L.J.B. states that a large number of migrating Pale Thrushes from the Asiatic continent
cross the Japan Sea and arrive at the Noto Peninsula in fall, many of them wintering in southwest Japan
and the Ryukyu Islands. (Pale Ouzel).
156. EYE-BROWED THRUSH Turdus obscurus
(Grey-headed Thrush, White-browed Thrush).
157. DUSKY THRUSH Turdus naumanni
The Dusky Thrush is a relatively common winter visitor during the rather restricted period of its
stay. I have seen this species on 19 occasions, all of which fell into the range of Jan. 1 - M ar. 28. The
best chance for seeing this species appears to be during February and the first half of M arch. This thrush
seems to prefer fields or open areas such as large lawns, rice paddies, or other cultivated areas. It occurs
throughout the island in suitable habitat. I frequently saw the Dusky Thrush early in the morning, before
other people were walking around, on the golf course near tree margins at the military recreation center
at Okuma. I have found this species to be very wary and almost impossible to approach closely.
Family Sylviidae: Old World Warblers
158. IJIM A'S WILLOW WARBLER Phylloscopus ijimae
159. INORNATE WARBLER Phylloscopus inornatus
The C.L.J.B. reports this species as an uncommon, but regular, passage migrant in the Ryukyus.
Okinawa is listed as a locality record. (Yellow-browed Warbler).
160. ARCTIC WARBLER Phylloscopus borealis.
Baker (1948) reports two specimens collected on Sep. 26 and 29, 1945. He states that the birds
were observed in woodland areas, and were not seen in late August. Cogswell (1948) states on p.50,
“Birds attributed to this species were seen in increasing numbers from September 25 to October 11, the
day before my departure.” (Yellow-browed Warbler, Swinhoe's Willow Warbler).
161. GRAY'S GRASSHOPPER WARBLER Locustella fasciolata
The C.L.J.B. states that this species inhabits reed beds, marshes, and swampy areas on migration.
162. FAN-TAILED WARBLER Cisticola juncidis
The Fan-tailed Warbler is a very common resident found in fields and cultivated areas with tall
grasses. It is found throughout the island in suitable habitat, and I found the Yomitan airfield area to be
especially good for this species. This warbler spends much of its time out of sight in tall grass, but will
occasionally fly up and perch on a piece of grass. In April and early M ay, their song flight in very
conspicuous. It flies up from the tall grass and hovers in the air while singing its high-pitched, repetitive
song, then dives back into the grass. (Zitting Cisticola).
163. SHORT-TAILED BUSH WARBLER Cettia squameiceps
The C.L.J.B. lists Okinawa as a locality record for this species and states on p.254: “Unnoticed but
probably not uncommon, passage migrant in many parts of southwest Japan and Ryukyus.” (Urosphena
squameiceps; Stub-tailed Bush-Warbler).
164. JAPANESE BUSH WARBLER Cettia diphone
This common resident is found throughout the island in forest areas, secondary growth, and areas
of tall grass or sugar cane. It is very vocal, and is heard much more than it is seen as it works through the
undergrowth or other cover. It is a good songster and very pleasant to hear in the spring. During the
non-breeding season its usual call is a scolding noise. (Bush Warbler).
Family M uscicapidae: Old World Flycatchers
165. GREY-SPOTTIED FLYCATCHER Muscicapa griseisticta
I have seen this species on four occasions, ranging from Sep. 13 - Oct 18. It was seen on a pine and
brush covered hillside in a sparse residential area and on a fence bordering a cultivated area, both in the
south central portion of the island. I also saw it along the forest edge of Highway 58, near the entrance to
the Oku logging trail in northern Okinawa. It would appear that this is a passage migrant that may be
encountered throughout the island in trees or brush near open areas. Although my sightings have been in
the fall, it should also be watched for during spring migration. (Grey-streaked Flycatcher, Chinese
* 166. ASIAN BROWN FLYCATCHER Muscicapa latirostris
On April 3, 1971, I observed one individual of this species in the broadleaf forest of Mt. Yonaha.
While walking along the trail, I was attracted by a bird call that I had not heard before. The bird was out
of sight in the nearby forest and was calling about every 10 to 15 seconds. It had two calls. One was a
musical, three note call that started, jumped two notes, and came down one. The other was an upward
slurred, kind of questioning call.
I remained at the location and the bird slowly moved out to the edge of the trail and perched on a
branch while making its call. I obtained two photographs of it from below. It was a small, sparrow-sized
flycatcher with a notched tail. The upperparts were brown, the underparts white with no markings.
(Brown Flycacher, Broad-billed Flycatcher).
167. NARCISSUS FLYCATCHER Ficedula narcissina
The C.L.J.B. states that this species is “Resident (probably) in Yakushima, Tanegashima, and
Ryukyus.” Its habitat preference is listed as dense forest. Short (1973b) reported a February 1972
sightings of one adult male in the bushy edge of a field on M t. Ibu. (Siphia n., Muscicapa n.).
168. M UGIM AKI FLYCATCHER Ficedula mugimaki
(Siphia m., Muscicapa m.).
169. BLUE-AND-WHITE FLYCATCHER Cyanoptila cyanomelana
The C.L.J.B. states that this species was recorded from Okinawa by Sho in 1918. (Muscicapa c.;
170. JAPANESE PARADISE FLYCATCHER Terpsiphone atrocaudata
The C.L.J.B. reports that this species is a breeder and probable resident in the Ryukyus. My three
sightings of this species occurred on M ay 23, July 25, and Sep. 11, 1971. Two of the observations were
in the M t. Yonaha area and one was in the streamside forest of the Oku logging trail. Each sighting was
of a single individual perched inside rather dense brushy areas. One individual was mixed in with a flock
of tits and white-eyes. (Black Paradise Flycatcher, Paradise Flycatcher).
Family M otacillidae: Wagtails, Pipits
171. WHITE WAGTAIL Motacilla alba
This attractive and conspicuous species is a common winter visitor. It can be found, on suitable
1owland habitat throughout the island, such as lawns, fields, estuaries, shores, and rice paddies; usually
near water. M y many observations range from Oct. 17 - M ar. 23.
Two subspecies occur on Okinawa and the males of each subspecies can be readily told apart. The
male of the subspecies commonly found has a gray back. This is M. a. lugens Gloger. The male of the
other subspecies, M. a. leucopsis Gould, has a black back. I have only seen M. a. leucopsis on three
occasions. Both subspecies of the White Wagtail have a white cheek below the eye.
It is necessary to carefully observe the lower white cheek on black backed individuals to insure that
one is not dealing with the Japanese Wagtail, Motacilla grandis, which may occur on Okinawa, although
it has not yet been recorded. In addition to its black nape and back, the Japanese Wagtail has a black
cheek below the eye which extends downward to the solid black upper breast. Only a small white patch
is visible beneath the bill. (Pied Wagtail).
172. GREY WAGTAIL Motacilla cinerea
This is a very common winter visitor and is usually seen singly or in very low numbers at a given
location. Its habitat preferences are similar to those of the White Wagtail and is usually found near water.
M y numerous observations of this species range from Sep. 4 - M ar. 28.
173. YELLOLW WAGTAIL Motacilla flava
This species is a passage migrant that I have observed on only three occasions. On Sep. 19, 1970, I
observed a flock of 10 on a grassy field adjacent to the M inatogawa intertidal area in the M achinato
Service Area. The next day, I saw a flock of approximately 100 on the field at the Hamby air strip
adjacent to the Chatan power plant. On Sep. 12, 1971, I observed a flock of 20 in the Hentona rice fields
at the base of the Akamaru Peninsula.
174. OLIVE TREE PIPIT Anthus hodgsoni
My only sighting of this species occurred on Dec. 6, 1969, in the Chatan area near Jagaru (the
housing area behind the military hospital). Four were feeding on the ground adjacent to a pine grove
with dense underbrush. When disturbed, they flew up to a pine tree, then down to the other side of a hill
and resumed foraging. (Indian Tree Pipit, Olive-backed Pipit, Chinese Tree Pipit).
175. RICHARD'S PIPIT Anthus novaeseelandiae
The C.L.J.B. lists Okinawa under locality records and states that this species is probably a regular
passage migrant in the Ryukyus.
176. RED-THROATED PIPIT Anthus cervinus
This is the most common pipit encountered on Okinawa. I have seen this species on 11 occasions,
ranging from Oct. 22 - Apr. 18. One sighting was in October, five sightings in December and January,
and five were in the last half of M arch and April. It would appear that the status of this species is that of
a transient and possible winter visitor. I usually saw it in flocks of 8 to 15. They were found on large
lawns and in rice fields after harvest. I most frequently saw them on the grassy area bordering the
Hamby air strip, adjacent to the Chatan power plant. Fall and winter birds lack the reddish coloration of
the throat and upper breast.
* 177. PETCHORA PIPIT Anthus gustavi
I have seen this species on five occasions. In a field adjacent to the south bank of the Kokuba River
(this area was subsequently built upon), three were observed on Nov. 1 and five were observed on Nov
11, 1970. One was observed in the field adjacent to the Chatan power plant on Apr. 5, 1971. At the
Sunabe landfill, two were observed on Oct. 13 and four were observed on Oct. 17, 1971. This species
looks similar to the Red-throated Pipit in winter, but has conspicuous white streaks on its back. (Pechora
178. WATER PIPIT Anthus spinoletta
Family Bombycillidae: Waxwings
179. BOHEM IAN WAXWING Bombycilla garrulus
The C.L.J.B. states that this species and the next are passage migrants and winter visitors
throughout the main islands of Japan and occasionally reach the Ryukyus. Okinawa is listed as a locality
record for both species. (Waxwing).
180. JAPANESE WAXWING Bombycilla japonica
Family Laniidae: Shrikes
181. BROWN SHRIKE Lanius cristatus
The C.L.J.B. states that this is a common passage migrant in the central and southern Ryukyus. My
sightings occurred on Sep. 19 and 20, 1970, when I observed and photographed one individual perching
on a bush and antenna wires in the field adjacent to the M inatogawa intertidal area in the M achinato
Service Area. (Red-tailed Shrike).
182. BULL-HEADED SHRIKE Lanius bucephalus
The C.L.J.B. states that this species winters in the Ryukyus and lists Okinawa under locality records.
Family Sturnidae: Starlings, M ynas
183. CHESTNUT-CHEEKED STARLING Sturnus philippensis
The C.L.J.B. states on page 331: “...Very common in the Ryukyu Is. on migration and part of the
migrants winter in south Ryukyus. ... On migration inhabits plains and suburban areas.” Cogswell (1948)
reports the sighting of one individual in Naha on Sep. 26, 1945, and of a flock of 30 in Kadena on Oct. 6,
1945. (Red-cheeked M yna, Red-cheeked Starling).
184. WHITE-CHEEKED STARLING Sturnus cineraceus
On April 18, 1971 I experienced my only observation of this species. In the cultivated plots of land
found in the Yomitan airfield area, I watched a flock of seven foraging on the ground and making
occasional short flights as a loose flock. Short (1973b) reports sighting a small flock north of Nago in
early February 1972. The C.L.J.B. states that this is an uncommon winter visitor or passage migrant in
the Ryukyus. (Grey Starling, Ashy Starling).
Family Zosteropidae: White-eyes
185. JAPANESE WHITE-EYE Zosterops japonica
This species is an abundant resident. It may be found throughout the island wherever forest or
brush are present. I consistently found this species on Mt. Yonaha, usually in flocks of from five to
twenty individuals and frequently mixed with tits. (Z. palpebrosa).
Family Ploceidae: Sparrows, Weavers, M unias
186. EURASIAN TREE SPARROW Passer montanus
This is an abundant resident and is found in areas of human habitation and cultivation. In late
September and October, one may encounter flocks of roosting Eurasian Tree Sparrows in excess of 100.
The loud chirping noise these flocks make at dusk is very conspicuous. I have witnessed such noisy
roosts at Kadena Air Force Base and in the vicinity of Kubasaki High School. I also observed a noisy
roost of over a hundred sparrows on the grounds of the military hospital on M arch 5, 1973. (Tree
Family Fringillidae: Finches, Buntings
187. BRAM BLING Fringilla montifringilla
My single observation of this species occurred at 7:10 a.m. on M arch 10, 1972, on the golf course
of the Okuma Recreation Center on the Akamaru peninsula. At that time I watched six Bramblings
foraging on the golf course with a flock of approximately 200 Grey-capped Greenfinches.
188. GREY-CAPPED GREENFINCH Carduelis sinica
My five sightings of this species range from Jan. 28 to M ar. 10. I have seen as few as one and four
individuals at a time, and flocks of approximately 20, 60, and 200. I saw these birds in the cultivated
area of the Yomitan airfield and in the rice paddies and Okuma Recreation Area of the Akamaru
peninsula. On M arch 10, 1972, at 7:10 a.m., I observed a flock of 200 foraging on the grounds of the
Okuma Recreation Center golf course. One portion of this flock kept flying ahead of the other in a
leapfrogging fashion. (Chloris sinica; Oriental Greenfinch, Chinese Greenfinch).
189. EURASIAN SISKIN Carduelis spinus
The Eurasian Siskin is a winter visitor. I had four sightings of the species that range from Jan. 27 to
Apr. 8. Three of the observations took place in the fir trees bordering the golf course at the Okuma
Recreation Center on the Akamaru peninsula, and the other occurred amongst the bushes and fir trees on
the shore adjacent to the Kawata sugarcane factory. From this meager data it occurred to me that during
the winter months, it is worth looking for Eurasian Siskins wherever one can find fir trees. Areas of fir
trees are not common on Okinawa.
On one occasion at the Okuma Recreation Center, I saw a flock of 60 Eurasian Siskins and on
another I saw a flock of 100. They kept up a constant twittering noise as they vigorously worked through
the foliage of a fir tree. Periodically they would explode into flight and fly like a swarm of bees to
another fir tree. (Siskin).
190. HAWFINCH Coccothraustes coccothraustes
Although I have not seen this species, the C.L.J.B. states that it winters south to the Ryukyus and is
“rather common.” Okinawa is listed as a locality record. In winter the habitat is listed as open
woodlands and cultivated regions at low elevations, frequently in suburban and city areas.
191. YELLOW-THROATED BUNTING Emberiza elegans
My single sighting of this species occurred on Feb. 26, 1972, at the Okuma Recreation Center on
the Akamaru peninsula. I saw at least four Yellow-throated Buntings working through pine trees
adjacent to the golf course.
192. BLACK-FACED BUNTING Emberiza spodocephala
I saw this species on four occasions ranging from Feb. 4 to M ar. 11. Each observation was of a
single bird with two sightings taking place at the Okuma Recreation Center on the Akamaru peninsula
and two sightings in the streambed at Nakoshi. On the first occasion at Nakoshi, one was pecking at the
ground on a little sandy islet in the streambed and on the second occasion one was flying from perch to
perch in the pine trees and brush adjacent to the stream. (Japanese Bunting).
193. GREY BUNTING Emberiza variabilis
On April 3, 1971, I was walking down a formerly bulldozed lumbering trail on M t. Yonaha and
noticed a small, crude sign in Japanese, nailed to a tree at the entrance to a poorly marked and little used,
very narrow foot path through dense broadleaf forest. I had only walked about twenty yards down this
trail, when I flushed a Grey Bunting that conveniently perched nearby so I could get a good look at him.
It was my only sighting of the Grey Bunting. (Japanese Grey Bunting).
Notes of my observations on the following three species are presented, although I have not included
them on the list of Okinawa birds as they almost certainly represent escaped birds. Sightings of these
and other escaped or introduced species should be recorded, however, to determine if such species
1. RED AV AT
ADAV Amandava amandava
On Oct. 25, 1970, six were observed in a field adjacent to the Kokuba River. One was observed
there on Nov. 11, 1970.
2. JAV SPARROW Padda oryzivora
Awase, Apr. 10, 1970, one observed. Two or three were observed in a field adjacent to the ocean
near M inatogawa during the period Sep. 19 to Oct. 10, 1970. One immature was observed in a field
adjacent to the Kokuba River on Oct. 24 and 25, 1970.
3. CHESNUT M UNIA Lonchura malacca
Two were observed in a field adjacent to the Kokuba River on Oct. 25, 1970. A flock of about 30,
including many immatures, was observed at the Sunabe landfill on Oct. 3, 1971, and a flock of about 45,
containing mostly immatures was observed there on Oct. 16, 1971.
Sapheopipo noguchii Seebohm
The most unique attraction for ornithologists and birders on Okinawa is unquestionably this distinct
species of woodpecker, found nowhere else in the world except on the northern mountain peaks of
Okinawa. The most accepted common name for this species in recent English references is Okinawa
Woodpecker, although I will refer to it as Noguchigera (also spelled Noguchi-gera), as that is how it is
known in Okinawa and Japan, and it is endemic to the Japanese island of Okinawa. It has also been
called Pryer's Woodpecker, Noguchi's Woodpecker, and Noguchi's Okinawa Woodpecker.
M ost of the references to this species are in the Japanese literature and the information is thus
unavailable to those who cannot read Japanese, which unfortunately includes me. I have made an
exhaustive literature search in an attempt to find everything possible written about this bird in English.
In addition, I have observed Noguchigera in its natural state and on one occasion in captivity. This
chapter contains the results of my study and will hopefully bring this little known, but fascinating
species to the attention of a greater number of people.
Dr. Lester L. Short has published a very comprehensive article concerning this woodpecker in the
M ay 1973 issue of The Wilson Bulletin. It is entitled, “Habits, Relationships, and Conservation of the
Okinawa Woodpecker,” and contains a beautiful and accurate color plate of a painting by Albert Earl
Gilbert of a male Okinawa Woodpecker. All references to Short in this chapter will refer to this article,
and I would encourage anyone interested in this woodpecker to obtain a copy of the article.
During a quick glance at a Noguchigera in the field, one perceives a medium-sized, dark brown
woodpecker, suffused with a considerable amount of reddish coloration. A definitive observation of an
adult Noguchigera will reveal a woodpecker approximately 10 inches long with a reddish-brown back,
cheeks and throat of light tan, with a stout, whitish beak, approximately 1 1/2 inches in length. The male
has a red crown, the female a brown one. The wings are dark brown to black, and when folded have
three conspicuous white spots on the primaries. In flight these become white bars on the outer joint of
the wing. The breast is brown, becoming pink to crimson on the belly. The tail is black. Kuroda, Nm.
(1926) described a female specimen collected in 1925 that lacked white spots on the outer webs of its
Published photographs or illustrations of Noguchigera are hard to find. A 1966 postage stamp of
the Ryukyu Islands features a very accurate color illustration of this woodpecker. Greenway (1967)
features a line drawing of this species on page 363 that depicts a conspicuous crest. Noguchigera,
however, does not have a crest. The color plate of the painting by Albert Earl Gilbert at the beginning of
Short's article is really outstanding and is the most readily available.
I have taken a number of photographs of Noguchigera in both the captive and wild state, although I
was not able to get very close in the field. In M ay 1973, I attended an outstanding display of wild bird
photographs at the Okinawa Times Building. Among these photographs were a number of very excellent
color close-ups of Noguchigera in its natural state.
As a result of the above meeting, I met M r. Hideo Arakaki and M r. Shine Nakachi of the Okinawa
Times who arranged for my wife and I to see an outstanding motion picture of Noguchigera, which
included pictures of the activities at an active nest hole, adult feeding the young, etc. Short apparently
refers to the same film and indicates it was take n in 1971 by M r. Katsu M origuchi, newsman. A number
of pictures of Noguchigera from this film have appeared in Japanese and English language papers on
Okinawa. In the June 1971 issue of Miscellaneous Reports of the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology,
(Volume 6, No. 3), Plate 2 shows a black and white picture of the adult feeding its young at the nest hole
opening and the caption reads, "The first photograph of a breeding Sapheopipo noguchii in Mt. Ibu,
Okinawa (M ay 13, 1971 offered by NTV Television Comp.)"
Sapheopipo noguchii was first made known to science when Henry Seebohm described it on page
178 of the 1887 Ibis. He named it Picus noguchii and reported it as collected from the Loo-choo Islands,
an earlier name for the Ryukyus. Plate VII of that issue of Ibis contained an illustration of the species.
The specimen Seebohm used to describe this new species was that of an immature male, obtained on an
expedition by H. Pryer and his collector, M r. Namiye. In 1893 Seebohm published a report in Ibis of an
adult male and two adult female Noguchigeras that were obtained from Okinawa by his collector, M r.
Holst. Although originally named Picus noguchii, the species was later placed in a new genus,
Sapheopipo, of which it is the only member.
From Seebohm's period to the present specimens were infrequently collected, usually by Japanese
ornithologists, and reported on mostly in the Japanese literature. Greenway (1967) states that he is aware
of specimens in Cambridge, M ass.; New York; and Tokyo. Baker (1948) reports the collection of two
specimens on September 2 and 29, 1945, from the dense forest near Hedo. These specimens were
collected by members of the United States Naval M edical Research Unit No. 2. In a conservation survey
for the Division of International Affairs, National Park Service in 1965, Dr. George C. Ruhle made two
sightings of Noguchigera and recommended strict protection for the species.
In December of 1970 and early 1971, great attention was briefly focused on Noguchigera by
endangered species protection associations of many countries when it was learned that a live fire
exercise was planned by the U.S. M arine Corps within the limited range of Noguchigera. When the
military authorities learned of the presence of this distinct species of woodpecker and the danger posed
to the species, the plans for the live fire exercise were promptly cancelled. The incident did serve to
focus attention on this unique, endemic species. From February 3-9, 1972, Dr. Lester Short of the
American M useum of natural History, a world authority on woodpeckers, visited Okinawa to study
Noguchigera. Unfortunately, I was unaware of his visit until after it had occurred.
I had been on Okinawa for about six months before I learned of the existence of Noguchigera. I
was visiting the now defunct United States Civil Administration of the Ryukyu Islands (USCAR) in an
attempt to learn if any studies had been conducted on the birds of Okinawa, when M r. Tomoharu Higa,
Forester of the Natural Resources Division, told mp about Noguchigera, its general range, and gave me
one of the 1966 Ryukyus postage stamps with its portrait. I was extremely excited at the news of this
rare, endemic species and began to look for it on each of my trips north. After a number of unsuccessful
trips and with new information gained from a continuing literature search, I decided to concentrate my
search on the upper portion of Mt. Yonaha. I learned, the route to the area of my successful sightings by
trial and error, and had to purchase a jeep in order to make the trip up 5.6 miles of extremely rough
My personal experiences with Noguchigera are described in the following text, as recorded in my
journal. Unless otherwise noted, all observations took place at the location on M t. Yonaha, that I
described in the chapter on good birding locations.
Journal: 27 Feb 71 - As I was walking along a narrow trail through broadleaf forest, I heard
what sounded like something scratching or scaling bark. Looking in the area of the noise, I saw the head
and chest silhouette of what appeared to be a woodpecker facing me from the other side of the branch.
Light was poor. It appeared that the bird may have some rufous color on its head. As I raised my
binoculars to look at it, it flew into a thicket, uttering a single, high-pitched alarm note.
6 Mar 71 - From heavy undergrowth adjacent to a tree containing what appeared to be an old
woodpecker hole, we heard a new bird call that I am sure was that of Noguchigera. It was a raucous,
loud, piercing, slurred note that rose in scale. These loud notes kept up intermittently for about 10
minutes from the same general area, but we were not able to observe the bird.
Later, I was walking along a trail that terminated in a dense brushy area. From out of the low brush
I heard a wing noise that sounded similar to that of a dove. The bird flew to several nearby spots in thick
brush and once landed on the side of a sapling, clutching it in an upright fashion like a woodpecker.
No alarm notes or other calls were made. This happened fast and only glances of the bird were obtained
with the naked eye. The bill was long with some rufous around it on the head. The wing area appeared
black with some large white spots.
7 Mar 71 - Numerous calls were heard which I felt were those of Noguchigera. It made a series
of long, drawn-out calls, then was silent for a while. Another call was a long series of short notes going
up and down one note in a loud, piercing, continuous fashion. The calls came from a densely vegetated
valley. The vegetation was about 4 to 6 feet in height and scattered bare trees 15 to 20 feet in height rose
above this floor of brush. From a vantage point on a hill at the side of the valley I could not see any birds
flying or in the trees, so I felt that they were calling from the undergrowth. By calls, I felt that three
individuals might be present.
3 Apr 71 - I heard one possible call from Noguchigera that was the rapid, raucous succession of
up and down notes. I also heard some loud tapping earlier in the day.
23 May 71 - As I was looking at a tree with two Japanese Pygmy Woodpeckers in it, I caught a-
glimpse of something large and reddish move up the trunk into the foliage. I trained my field glasses on
the spot and then saw the underparts of a dove-sized bird. The lower half was bright crimson and I had
the name "fruit pigeon" going through my mind. Then it hopped to the side of the trunk, ~woodpecker
fashion, in clear view and I had my first excellent look at Noguchigera. It moved about slowly and
pecked every now and then, but made no noise. Then it flew up the valley.
At this time it started making single, interrogative notes. The note ended in a rising manner, or on
an upswing. I walked up the trail and saw it again, moving from tree to tree. It was moving in the
underparts of the trees that were mostly alive with foliage. The tapping action of the woodpecker was
not making any noise.
Then it flew down low in the undergrowth to a sapling. It pecked on the sapling a little, then
hopped down to the ground and looked like it was pecking both on the roots and in the soil. It moved
back and forth between sapling and a dead log, but stayed low. Usually its pecking actions produced no
noise. Every now and then it gave a call note then kept moving, mostly in the low brush.
About this time I heard wing noise like that of a dove. Looking around I saw another Noguchigera
land on a dead tree fairly close. It moved from dead tree to dead tree pecking on them. Every now and
then the pecking made quite a loud noise. The flight was undulating and wing noise could be heard.
I followed this bird up around the hill and got to within about 75 feet of it as it was pecking on a
dead tree. The pecking made a lot of noise and I could see chips of wood falling. I photographed this
bird with a 300 mm lens.
18 Jul 71 - I heard the call note of a Noguchigera and saw it in flight across the wooded valley.
It landed for a second, then flew again over the ridge.
I heard the call note again down in the valley. As I searched the valley below with my binoculars, I
saw a Noguchigera hanging upside down on a tree limb, slowly pecking at it. It hopped down and
around the branch, pecking at it and was using its tail as a conspicuous prop. It got on some dead wood
on one of the tree branches and really pecked on it, making chips fly. Then it flew to a sapling and on up
I kept hearing the "week" single call note of a Noguchigera that seemed to be coming from another
individual. I followed the call note and got very close to the source, but could not see the bird in the
brush. Then I heard a call note from the other direction and a Noguchigera flew in and landed on a tree
with bare trunk and branches. The other Noguchigera flew to this tree and both made some call notes
and were pecking together on the same tree. They flew off together into the forest from which I
continued to hear an occasional call note.
After returning to my jeep, I heard the call that we had heard on 6-7 M arch, the rapid succession of
notes going up and down, deviating just one note either way from the mean.
25 Jul 71 - As we were getting out of the jeep at 7:45 a.m., we heard a Noguchigera call the
rapid succession of up and down notes. Later, as we were standing motionless on the trail, my wife,
Cindy, noticed a pair of Noguchigeras land on a nearby tree and called my attention to it. They were
silent and provided an excellent comparison of the sexes. The male had a red crown and the female had
a brown crown. With the exception of the different crown colorations, both birds had similar coloration.
They hopped a few steps up the tree and pecked silently a few times, then flew. In flight, the white spots
of the folded wing expanded to become stripes in the first joint of the wing. The male landed on a
nearby branch, pecked a few times, and flew again. Then for the first time of the day, we heard one utter
a single call note.
11 Sep 71 - We heard a Noguchigera call note fairly close to us.
26 Feb 72 - Today we drove up Mt Nishime, a 420 meter mountain at the north tip of Okinawa.
A rough road was bulldozed through dense broadleaf forest, the same habitat as that of M t. Yonaha.
As we were about to leave the area, we heard the calls of Noguchigera. The calls continued during
a 25 minute period beginning about 12:00 noon. First there were several of the long succession of
raucous, grating, “squark's,” slurring upwards. At one time it seemed to me that there were two birds
calling. The calls were coming from a wooded valley adjacent to the road.
27 Feb 72 - While walking down a bulldozed path through broadleaf forest. I heard wing noise
followed a few seconds later by the staccato “weeck” call note of Noguchigera. I looked into the forest
and saw a male Noguchigera clutching the side of a four inch in diameter sapling, approximately three to
four feet from the ground. I saw him well with the naked eye as he was only about 20 feet away. Then he
flew to a succession of three or four live saplings perching low on the trunks of each. Once he was about
a foot from the ground and never did he perch higher than about five feet above the ground. The forest
canopy in this area was about 20 feet high.
From the initial sighting until he flew back into the forest too far to be seen, approximately 45
seconds had elapsed. During this time he made about 5 call notes.
10 Mar 72 - We heard the longer calls of Noguchigera several times during the morning, but
they always sounded pretty far away and did not last long. Around noon I heard a loud tapping noise
lasting about three seconds, coming from the adjacent forest. After a twenty second pause, I heard the
note of Noguchigera, repeated several times during a two minute period.
25 Jun 72 - While walking along the forest trail at 10:00 a.m., we saw a Noguchigera fly from
foliage, in fifteen feet high bushes adjacent to the trail, across the trail and down the slope a little into the
valley about 100 feet away. It first landed on a tree, but after about 30 seconds, it flew down to the rather
dense foliage of a tree or bush about fifteen feet high.
Here it moved about through the foliage with the same general type of habitats as white-eyes have.
Sometimes it was out of sight, but the foliage was moving which indicated where it was. Some of the
branches it grabbed a hold of bent down under its weight and it hung on upside down. The individual
was a male with bright reddish crown. Its bill was a horn color rather than white.
Once he perched on top of a branch in plain view and thrust his beak into a stalk of seed pods. The
manner in which he moved his beak around inside the stalk of seed pods seemed very unwoodpecker
like. As a matter of fact, this whole display of moving about through the foliage seemed more typical of
a vireo than a woodpecker.
The whole sighting lasted about two or three minutes during which I heard one call note. Then he
flew up the valley for a short distance and was lost from sight. We walked up the trail a little, then after
ten minutes I walked back down to this area. I heard his call note, but could not see it. Then I heard two
more call notes in quick succession and saw it fly out of a foliaged tree about 20 feet high and fly down
I walked back up the trail and in about 100 yards, I saw a dove-sized bird fly across the trail with
what appeared to be labored flight. I heard wing noise and saw several undulations of the bird in flight.
Went back down the trail to where I thought this individual might land. I heard several Noguchigera call
notes, then saw it fly across the trail from one barren tree into a forest of thick vegetation. I could not
locate it again. Since this bird came from up the valley, and the one I had just seen flew down the valley,
I feel sure that two individuals were present.
27 May 73 - I visited the area today with Phil Warren on what would be my last trip to Mt.
Yonaha during my period of residence on Okinawa.
We saw one and possibly two Noguchigera. We saw one individual in flight to a tree and heard its
loud tapping noise. We saw its side view then it flew off. A Noguchigera (possibly the same individual)
perched, for a few moments on a narrow tree to the left of where the previous bird had landed, then flew
Noguchigera in Captivity - I learned of some Noguchigeras that were being maintained in
captivity near the Kunigami-Son municipal office in Hentona Village and visited them on July 3, 1971.
Since the Noguchigera is protected as a Natural M onument, I assume that special permission was sought
from the Government of the Ryukyu Islands to keep the birds in temporary captivity.
We found three Noguchigeras contained in cages in the yard of a private residence behind the
municipal office. Two were in one of the cages, which was about a yard square by two feet high. These
individuals had reddish-orange-brown breasts, black wings with white spots on the primaries, and red
crowns. The beaks were stout, about 1 1/2 inches long, of a whitish color with a brownish-black base.
The throat was a light buff color. One had a tail that was fairly well developed while the other's tail was
The backs were reddish-brown with lots of reddish showing. They had three long toes, and one
short one. They perched with two toes forward and two toes to the rear. They were about eight inches in
length including the tail and were supposedly about four months old. Due to a language barrier we could
not really communicate with the caretakers. We were offered fresh watermelon and the caretakers put
the watermelon rinds into the cage. The Noguchigera pecked at these.
Another Noguchigera was in a separate, cylindrical cage with a log in it. This bird was about eight
to nine inches long. It looked a little older and had a frayed tail, although I still felt that it was an
immature. It had a much redder breast and whiter bill than the other two.
It was very tame. It stuck its long tongue out from its beak to lick water from the fingers of the
caretaker. It also stuck its tongue out and accepted a live caterpillar offered by the caretaker. All three
birds appeared to be in good condition. I do not know what they were being fed, but small dishes of seed
and vegetable matter were in the cages.
While we were watching them, they occasionally made a call that was one whistle note ending on
an upturn. They also made a little guttural noise. Additional descriptive data includes brown cheeks,
black eye, and a black tail. At rest the wings were black with two white dots on the lower primaries.
It was very hot and the birds kept their beaks open quite a bit like they were panting. One was
observed to drink water from a dish on the side of its cage.
Also present in the yard of the residence was an approximately four foot section cut from a tree
trunk containing a woodpecker hole. I did not have material with me to take measurements and planned
to do so on the next visit. Since logging is conducted in this area, I felt that the tree may have been cut
down without realizing that an active nest was present and thus the young Noguchigeras were obtained
To the astonishment of the caretakers, I took an entire 36 exposure roll of slides of the young
I returned to this location about two months later, but learned that the Noguchigeras had been
released. Due to a complete language barrier, I was unable to learn details.
The text that follows contains what I have been able to learn about the life history of Noguchigera.
The information was drawn from my personal observations and a comprehensive literature search of
information printed in English. The following certainly does not present a completed picture, merely a
base upon which to build. The Japanese literature contains many additional exciting facts and
observations I am sure, but there is still much to be learned about this rare and magnificent species.
The habitat of Noguchigera is the original, undisturbed, dense, broadleaf forest generally found
above the 250 meter level on the mountains of northern Okinawa. Short estimated this area at
approximately five square miles. The present range of this species extends from Mt. Iyu (sometimes
written Ivu, 449 m.) to M t. Nishime, 420 m., (approaching M t. Hedozaki, 248 m.) in the Kunigami area.
M ost of the observations have been reported from the Mt. Yonaha area, 498 m., followed by Mt.
Nishime and M t. Ibu, 354 m.
Kuroda, Nm (1925) reports that Ogawa (1905) collected seven specimens of Sapheopipo noguchii
from Nagogatake, Okinawa. This is apparently a reference to M t. Nago, 345 meters, located near the
neck of the M otobu Peninsula. Suitable habitat exists for Noguchigera on the high mountains of this area,
such as M t. Yae, 453 m., and M t. Katsu, 451 m., on the M otobu Peninsula, and on nearby mountains of
the main part of the island, such as M t. Kushi, Mt. Nago, M t. Tano, M t. Hitotsu, and Mt. Ubashi.
Ogawa's specimens indicate that a population of Noguchigera once existed in this area, and I think it
would definitely be worthy of further investigation to see if any individuals remain. There is a good road
up Mt. Tano, 396 m., and I hope someone will spend some time in this area in M arch and April, listening
for the calls of 'Noguchigera.
Short goes into considerable detail on range and population estimates for the mountain peaks in the
Kunigami area. Since Noguchigera must have the original forest habitat to survive, the population can
be separated into small groups (if not already accomplished) by acts of deforestation that cut the original
forest into separate patches. Short states on p. 18, "The greatest danger to the woodpecker, aside from
the obvious small extent of remaining undisturbed forests, is the fragmentation of its population into
scattered tiny colonies and even isolated pairs."
There is certainly much to be learned concerning the behavior of Noguchigera. Kuroda, Nm. (1925)
contains an interesting statement about Noguchigera in quotation marks, which was apparently made by
M r. Orii, Kuroda's collector: "Very rare resident in the virgin forest on Yonahadake at an altitude of
about 1,600 feet above sea level in Okinawajima. It is found near or on the ground in the deep woods,
never climbing up the tall tree in day time. It seems to haunt the bamboo jungle a few feet from the
ground, because the two specimens before me have their tail feathers soiled with mud at the end. It feeds
on insects in the rotten parts of bamboo stalk. It seems to hop on the ground..." The above statement was
made concerning a male and female Noguchigera collected on M t. Yonaha in 1922.
Contrary to the above statement, I have seen Noguchigera on the upper portions of trees during the
day time. The reference to bamboo jungle is also interesting. While I have seen species of bamboo in the
forest inhabited by Noguchigera, it did not appear to me to be a predominate species, certainly not
enough to call it a "bamboo jungle."
The reason I cited the above passage, however, is the reference it makes to Noguchigera's
preference for the low elevations of the forest and the ground. My own observations support this and I
believe it is one of the major reasons for the difficulty in finding Noguchigera, even in locations where it
is known to occur. It seems to spend much of its time in the low portions of the dense forest and even on
the ground where it is very difficult to detect in the dense undergrowth.
On p. 7, Short states: "The Okinawa Woodpecker forages mainly near the ground in various dead or
live trees and bamboos, in stubs, and on moss-draped fallen logs and debris littering the forest floor. It
does not feed on the ground in the manner of the ant-foraging flickers (Colaptes ssp.) or Green
Woodpecker (Picus viridis), but frequents the bases of trees and stubs, and hops about on fallen logs, and
debris amid dense low bushes. Occasionally it perches on the ground, or hops across a small area of
open ground near logs, to gain a more favorable position for feeding."
Short further states on p. 7-8: "Foraging of the Okinawa Woodpecker during early February, 1972,
was by excavating, tapping, probing, and flicking aside of rotten wood ... Rotting stubs, logs, and even
rotten sticks 2 or 3 cm in diameter lying on the ground are used, and if the wood is well rotted it literally
is hacked apart leaving (on logs or the ground) a mound of loose wood particles. The gouges in rotten
stubs mentioned above are obvious signs of the Okinawa Woodpecker’s excavating habits, but it chisels
smaller circular or rectangular holes in live trees and bamboos."
It is also a shy bird and will fly away as soon as it detects the presence of a human. Thus as one
moves through its habitat, most sightings occur by chance and are rather brief. Its tapping frequently
makes very little noise. In my observations this seemed to occur when it was tapping on live trees, or
when it was tapping with little vigor, perhaps just testing areas of the tree. Loud tapping noises are heard,
however, especially when it is working on dead wood. It has an undulating flight and a wing noise like
that of a dove can frequently be heard at close range.
Since Noguchigera is generally shy and inconspicuous, its presence can most easily be detected by
voice. M y perception of its calls are described in my journal. The species has at least three types of calls
that I am aware of. The first is what I have termed its call note. This is a single syllable, interrogative
type of note that sounds like “weeck” with an upward inflection at the end. This is not a loud call and
may be heard once or several times when one is close to a Noguchigera.
The other two calls are very loud and can be heard at a considerable distance. One of the calls is a
raucous, grating, dragged out “squarrrrrrrk” slurring upwards. This call may be repeated several times
at intervals of under a minute. The other call I describe as a long series of rapid notes going up and down
by one note either way from the median tone level. Although I certainly lack abundant data, I feel that
Noguchigera is most vocal from late February through April. Short presents considerable material on the
vocalizations of Noguchigera.
Chiba (1969) reported on a stomach analysis of Japanese woodpeckers and concluded that among
the eight species of Japanese woodpeckers studied, Noguchigera was one of three species that consumed
a large amount of vegetable food. The stomach contents of two Noguchigera taken in the month of April
were examined. The stomach of one individual contained amongst animal foods: three Cerambycidae sp.
(larvae), 23 spiders, and 50 beetles; amongst vegetable foods: 15 Rubus Sieboldi seeds and two Rhus
succedanea seeds. The stomach of the other specimen contained amongst animal foods: two
Cerambycidae sp. larvae, 12 spiders and 15 beetles; amongst vegetable foods: 200 Rubus Sieboldi seeds.
An article in the M arch 1973 issue of The Okinawan Kokoku, a local Japan/English newspaper,
presented the following information based upon information from the Okinawa Birds Protection
Association: "...Their food is mainly derived from...larvae of insects such as Longicorn Beetles,
Centipedes, and moths. They also eat plant food such as the Myrica, and nuts of Pasania and
I made no direct observations of the nesting or breeding behavior of Noguchigera. Certainly much
remains to be learned in this area. Cultural Assets of the Ryukyus contains the following statement
concerning Noguchigera, "Piercing a hole of about 9 cm in diameter, and 75 cm in depth on a dead tree
at the height of about l.5 meters from the ground, it builds a nest and lays a few eggs in April." The
Okinawan Kokoku states in the same article mentioned above, "Average amount of young 2-3. They
begin to nest in the last part of December, building up to feverish activity in February, M arch, April and
M ay is mating season. Nests are in trees near swamps measuring 80-120 cm in diameter. M oss, leaves of
trees and ferns are used to line their nests."
The above information needs to be taken with a grain of salt, and if anything, points out how much
remains to be learned and reported in this area. I have seen no swamps in Noguchigera's habitat and
doubt that they line their nests. I saw occasional woodpecker holes in the Mt. Yonaha area which I
believe were those of Noguchigera. They were usually at a height of ten to fifteen feet or more from the
ground and appeared to be about two and one half to three inches in diameter. Ruhle (1965) reported
nest holes as much as 2 1/2 inches in diameter and greater than one foot deep.
Short reports that the Okinawa Woodpecker nests in April and M ay based on several sources of
information. The captive juveniles that I observed on July 3, 1971, were supposedly about four months
old. They were probably younger, maybe three months old. If so, then they would have been hatched in
the vicinity of April 3. The photo of a breeding Noguchigera at the nest was taken on M ay 13.
For further information on the Okinawa woodpecker, I would strongly recommend Dr. Short's
article. A copy of his article or of the M arch 1973 The Wilson Bulletin (while they last) may be obtained
for a fee from, "The Josselyn Van Tyne M emorial Library, University of M ichigan M useum of Zoology,
Ann Arbor, M ichigan 48109, U.S.A." The summary of Dr. Short's article (p, 19) is quoted below:
"The endemic, endangered Okinawa woodpecker (Sapheopipo noguchii), comprising a monotypic
genus, inhabits scattered patches of original forest in northern Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. Brief studies in
February 1972 established that it forages by excavating for insects in trees, and particularly in rotting
branches, and stubs, and in rotten trees and branches lying on the ground. It is found at low levels in
trees and undergrowth, much as is Blythipicus rubiginosus in Southeast Asia. Various calls are described,
as is drumming. V ocalizations show resemblances to those of Blythipicus and Picus. What is known of
this woodpecker's anatomy, and its behavior strongly suggest that Sapheopipo noguchii is related to the
Blythipicus-Gecinulus-Picus line of woodpeckers, and not to Picoides (Dendrocopos). Although only
five to eight individuals actually were observed, information available from my field observations of its
habitat, and from Ryukyu Island forestry officials suggests a population of 20 pairs (possibly as many as
60 pairs) distributed patchily over about 1500 ha of the Okinawa highlands. Wood-gathering,
wood-cutting, forest clearing and replacement by exotic tree plantations, and fires are reducing the
natural forests. Because the woodpecker requires undisturbed forest with plenty of rotting trees for
foraging, and with standing trees and stubs 25 cm or more in diameter for nesting, the various human
activities just mentioned are fragmenting its remaining small population and threatening it with
immediate danger of extinction. Loss of this distinctive species and genus of woodpecker can be
prevented only by fast action to establish one or, better, several effectively protected, suitably large
preserves containing a few pairs of Okinawa Woodpeckers. Proper management of forests in the
surrounding regions may permit reestablishment of the species over a large area, such that it no longer
would be in danger."
Noguchigera is designated as a Natural M onument of Japan and is the Okinawa Prefectural bird.
A Partial Listing of References Consulted during my study of The Birds of
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Zool. Harvard Coll. V 109, No. 4.
Baker, Rollin H. 1948. Report on Collections of Birds M ade by United States Naval M edical Research
Unit No. 2 in the Pacific War Area. Smithsonian M iscellaneous Collections V 107, No. 15.
Chiba, S. 1969. Stomach analysis of Japanese Wood peckers. M iscl. Reports of the Yamashina Institute
for Ornithology V 5, no. 5: 487-510 (in Japanese with English summary and tables of
Cogswell, H. L. 1948. Summer observations of birds on Okinawa, Ryukyu Islands. Condor, 50: 16-25.
Edwards, E. P. 1974 . A Coded List of Birds of the World. Published by author, Sweet Briar, Va.
Gore, M .E. J, and Won, Pyong-Oh. 1971. The Birds of Korea. Royal Asiatic Society, Korea
Branch.(Taewon Publishing Co., Seoul; C.E. Tuttle Co., Inc. , Tokyo and Vt.).
Greenway. J. C. 1967. Extinct and Vanishing Birds of the World. Dover Publ., New York.
Hachisuka, M ., and T. Udagawa. 1953. Contribution to the ornithology of the Ryukyu Islands. Quart. J.
Taiwan M us., 6; 141-279.
Ishizawa, J. 1960. On the distribution and migration of Locustella o. ochotensis. Tori V XV No. 75:
214-226 (in Japanese with English resume).
King, B. F., and E. C. Dickinson. 1975. A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia. Houghton
M ifflin Co., Boston.
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with excellent illustrations keyed by number to common and scientific names in English).
Kuroda, Nagahisa. 1953. Notes on Japanese Skylark. Tori V XIII, No. 62: 4-17 (in English).
1971. Bird survey in the Ryukyus, Oct. 1970. M iscl. Reports of the Yamashina
Institute for Ornithology V 6, No. 3: 54-79. (in Japanese with English summary).
Kuroda, Nagamichi. 1925. A Contribution to the Knowledge of the Avifauna of the Riu Kiu Islands and
the Vicinity. Published by author, Tokyo. (in English).
1926. On a small collection of Birds from the Riu Kiu Islands. Tori V V No. 22:
79-95. (in English ).
M orioka, H. 1974. Avifauna of the Ryukyu Islands and its origin. M emoirs of the National Science
M useum, No. 7: 203-211, Tokyo, September 20, 1974. (In Japanese with English summary).
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and revised edition. Tokyo.
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Co., Ltd., Tokyo.
1975. Addenda and Corrigenda to Check-List of Japanese Birds. Gakken Co., Ltd.,
Peterson, R. T., Guy Mountfort and P.A.D. Hollom. 1966. A Field Guide to the Birds of Britain and
Europe, second ed. Houghton M ifflin Co., Boston.
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Ruhle, George C. 1965. A Conservation Survey of the Ryukyu Islands. (copy of report prepared for
Division of International Affairs, National Park Service. Department of the Interior, Wash.
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1888. Further notes on the birds of the Loo-Choo Islands. Ibis, pp. 232-236.
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Severinghaus, S.R., Kuo-wei Kang, and P.S. Alexander. 1970. A Guide to The Birds of Taiwan. The
China Post, Taipei.
Short, L. L. 1973a. Habits, relationships and conservation of the Okinawa Woodpecker. Willson Bulletin,
1973b. Notes on Okinawa birds and Ryukyu Islands zoogeography. Ibis, 115: 264-267.
Takara. T. and Kuroda, N.h. 1969. Rare and new records of birds from the Ryukyu Islands. M iscl.
Reports of the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology V 5, no. 5: 547-562 (in Japanese with
Williamson, K. 1960. Juvenile and winter plumages of the marsh terns. British Birds, 53(6): pp.
Yamashina, Y 1941. On the three endemic birds in the Ryukyu Islands. Trans. Biogeogr. Soc. Japan, 3:
319-328 (in Japanese with English resume).
Yamashina, Y 1955. Distributional areas of the birds of the Ryukyu Islands. Bull. of the Biogeogr. Soc.
of Japan, Vols. 16-19 (Recent Conceptions of Japanese Fauna), pp 371-375 (In Japanese with
Yamashina, Yoshimaro. 1961. Birds in Japan: A Field Guide. Tokyo News Service, Ltd. (in English)
1974 Birds in Japan: A Field Guide, second ed. Tokyo News Service , Ltd., Tokyo.