Japan is not widely regarded as a birding destination, yet this great chain of islands happens to host some of the most sought-after and spectacular birds on Earth. Included in this suite of species is the Okinawa Rail, a medium sized rallid that was only formally described to Science as recently as 1981!
Endemic to the northern region of Okinawa Island, which forms part of southern Japan’s Ryukyu Islands, this very beautiful rail occurs in evergreen broad-leaved forest and surrounding marshes, grassland and cultivated land. An almost flightless bird, it spends the majority of its time foraging on the ground for insects, lizards, snails and amphibians, but mainly roosts in trees at night, as was the case with this particular bird that Glen Valentine photographed during a night drive in the area.
Classified as endangered due to habitat loss, road fatalities and introduced predators (cats, dogs and mongoose), the species is now thought to number fewer than 800 birds. In an attempt to save it from extinction, the Japanese authorities have declared it a “Natural Monument” and a “Special Bird for Protection”, affording it at least some legal protection and a modicum of hope for the future.
The Okinawa Rail is just one of many fabulous species on offer on our forthcoming Japan – Dancing Cranes & Winter Birding tour and Ryukyu Islands Extension. Other highlights on this epic journey include the beautiful Copper Pheasant, Blakiston’s Fish Owl, Steller’s Sea Eagle, displaying Red-naped (Japanese) Cranes and, indeed, the primary purpose for the tour’s timing, the whopping 10,000+ White-naped and Hooded Cranes that spend the frigid winter months together on the island of Kyushu – certainly one of the greatest avian spectacles on earth!
If you wish to partake in what promises to be a very exciting and unique adventure, then please contact our office for further details.