Trip Report: Tokyo (Japan), December 4-6, 1996

Francis Toldi, Burlingame, CA, USA;

In early December of 1996 I squeezed a few hours of birding into a business trip to Tokyo Japan. Later in the same trip I was able to spend an entire day birding in Singapore. I will report on Singapore in another post; what follows is a brief summary of a few hours of birding in urban Tokyo.

Business or stopover travelers to Tokyo can spend an enjoyable few hours birding right in central Tokyo. My information sources consisted of the Wild Bird Society of Japan's Field Guide to the Birds of Japan. This trip I also took along Mark Brazil's A Birdwatcher's Guide to Japan. On previous trips I also took Jane Washburn Robinson's A Birder's Guide to Japan. Both are excellent references with clear instructions. Washburn has a helpful introduction for travelers new to Japan. Brazil is more concise (and a slimmer volume), with slightly more recent information. Both cover similar areas, at least in the Tokyo area.

On December 4 and 6 I jogged from my Hotel to the Imperial Palace Moat and Hibiya Park. The common city birds included ROCK DOVE (Columba livia), BROWN-EARED BULBUL (Hypsipetes amaurotis), JUNGLE (LARGE-BILLED) CROW (Corvus macrorhynchos) , GRAY STARLING (Sturnus cineraceus) and EURASIAN TREE SPARROW (Passer montanus). The moat also contained LITTLE GREBE (Tachybaptus ruficollis), GREAT CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax carbo), SPOT BILLED DUCK (Anas poecilorhyncha), TUFTED DUCK (Aythya fuligula), a single COMMON POCHARD (Alythya ferina), BLACK-TAILED GULL (Larus crassirostris) and two presumably domesticated MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor). In nearby Hibiya Park was also a GREAT TIT (Parus major). On a previous trip I found AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE (Cyanopica cyana) in that park, but not on this trip.

On a previous trip (in November a few years ago) I spent some time birding the Ueno Park area. Interestingly, the active birders in Tokyo spend many hours patiently picking through the masses of Tufted Duck, Common Pochard and Eurasian Wigeon for the rare scaup, Redhead and American Wigeon--the exact inverse of U.S. West Coast birders!

On December 5 I spent about 3 hours in the Meiji Shrine area. The shrine itself (and the nearby Treasure House) is impressive, and worth a visit in its own right. I birded the area between 7 and 9:30 a.m. Unfortunately the inner garden was not open, so my birding was restricted to the larger park area. On a previous trip I had birded the inner garden and found many birds, not to mention beautiful plants, trees and serene beauty.

In addition to the common city birds noted above, there were RUFOUS TURTLE DOVE (Streptopelia orientalis), and GREAT TIT along various paths. Along the small dirt track that circled from the main gate near the subway station around behind the inner garden, were VARIED TIT (Parus varius) and RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL (Tarsiger cyanurus, a.k.a. Siberian Bluechat or Orange-flanked Bush Robin). In a wet draw right near the (closed) entrance to the inner garden I found a solitary, silent PALE THRUSH (Turdus pallidus), JAPANESE WHITE-EYE Zosterops japonica), another RED-FLANKED BLUETAIL and more VARIED and GREAT TITS. Just behind the Shrine on the path to the Treasure House was a flock of AZURE-WINGED MAGPIE, yet more VARIED TIT (surprisingly common) and a small flock of RUSTIC BUNTING (Emberiza rustica). The lake near the Treasure House yielded about 20 MANDARIN DUCK, (Aix galericulata) as well as MALLARD (Anas platyrhynchos) and LITTLE GREBE. The open grassy areas in the general vicinity had DUSKY THRUSH (Turdus naumanni) and WHITE WAGTAIL (Motacilla alba).

Near the Treasure House I also found a small black "cottontail" type rabbit--all black with white on the back of the neck. I know nothing about Japanese mammals, so I don't know if this was an escape or an actual wild rabbit of some type. Brazil lists something called an Amami Black Rabbit (Pentelagus furnessi) in the appendix, so perhaps it was that species.

On a previous trip a few years ago I walked in the inner garden and saw additional species, including JAPANESE PYGMY WOODPECKER (Dendrocopus kizuki) right at the entrance gate. Another great birding area in the Tokyo area that is easy to reach is the Oi Bird Park, down near Haneda Airport. On a previous trip I spent a full morning and early afternoon there, and saw 30 species or so. Anyone wanting details of that trip can request it by private e-mail.

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This page served by Urs Geiser;; January 10, 1997; updated January 2, 2000