Thursday, December 29, 2011

The National Bird

More than 40 countries now have their own national birds. I was a bit surprised when I first learned that the Green Pheasant (Phasianus versicolor) is Japan's national bird. Usually when thinking of a Japanese bird that can represent Japan well as a whole, I'd think of the Red-crowned or Japanese Crane (Grus japonensis). Just look at its scientific name and those cliches of white large birds dancing in the snow. However, to my surprise, the Red-crowned Crane is actually China's current national bird. And because of the scientific name issue, I've heard people said that China might choose a new national bird. The Golden Pheasant is among the top candidates. I actually agree with this choice. Either the Golden Pheasant or Mandarin Duck would suit fine as their national bird. Anyway, in Japan it seems like the image of the Green Pheasant is not as widely celebrated as the cranes or eagles. I barely see photos of the pheasant in general media, while every winter there are photos and footage of the cranes, both in Hokkaido and Kagoshima, almost everywhere. It's the reason why I haven't been aware that the Green Pheasant is actually the Japanese national bird.

Male Green Pheasant (Phasianus versicolor)
On December 27th, I visited Oita River hoping to photograph some wintering ducks as usual. There were not so many ducks in the river, however. The star bird that completely stole the show of the day was actually the male Green Pheasant that was feeding along the river bank. Actually, there were at least 3 of them. They were quite vocal and once I thought I was about to witness the real cockfight when 2 of the birds began to scream at each other very seriously. It turned out that both of them chose to stay in the shade and scream at each other for about 10 minutes attracting the attention even from the pedestrians before they both stopped and disappeared into the dense vegetation.

Looking from the photos above, you might think that it's an easy job to photograph the bird as it seems to be out in the open, but actually it wasn't easy at all! Even though the birds seemed to favour foraging in the open and neglecting the pedestrians and bikers, they were certainly scared of me pointing large gun-like object towards them. They don't fancy flying much, so most of the time they just slowly (or sometimes quickly if I got really close) crept into the bush. Once they're in, it's not an easy job to get their photos. I had to listen to the sound of them walking through the grass and figure where and when will they come out. It was a fun experience though.
Their typical 'checking out' look

It's really difficult to get the whole body into a frame!
Sometimes they liked to cross the street too, but it's still not easy to capture them while they're switching on their high speed gear. I think the best way to photograph them is to be in a car, since they seemed to neglect vehicles like motorcycles or bicycles and people who were running. It was quite a crazy moment when I was running around chasing after a pheasant that was running wild on the open street. I wonder if anyone saw the whole sequence of that they'd be laughing their heads off. Just running after a pheasant on the street is already funny enough, not to mention of trying to photograph it. Below is how the bird behaved. You can see that it clearly doesn't care standing in the bright light if the people just keep on passing by, not stopping in front of them with a bazooka their hands.
Just keep passing, people!

Today I went to Ono River at Shimohanda because someone found a male Scaly-sided Merganser (Mergus squamatus) since about 2 weeks ago. I just found the news this morning and hurried out of the room to get there as soon as possible. The Scaly-sided Merganser is one of my most yearning birds. The last record of it was on Monday December 26th, only 1 day before I went to Oita River to get these shots of the pheasants. I kept thinking to myself I should've known this news earlier, since the bird didn't show up today. It was even published on the local newspaper! This is the first record of this endangered species in Oita Prefecture in 4 years. I even met the guy who first found the bird and he took me to the place where he normally used to observe it, but it wasn't there. Just looking at the photo of it in his website makes me feel a little heartache. I was a totally failed twitcher today. Even though I found a beautiful male Baikal Teal and a flock of 10+ Mandarin Ducks, they didn't make me feel any better.


John said...

It's a great bird... and a great set of photos...

Stuart Price said...

Shame abut the Merganser..........I've never seen the Teal either.

I've only ever seen the pheasant once (from a train window near Aomori). The ones we have up in Hokkaido are introduced Ring Necked Pheasants, a closely related but different species I think.......they are as shy as yours though.

Great photos, what a colourful bird.

Charounette said...

Knowing not much about birds myself, I'd say Crane if I am asked. I was enough surprised to know that the national bird of Japan is this elegant bird with brilliant feathers. For France it's very easy and people usually guess right. Know that ไก่ฟ้าพญาลอ is the representative of our country. I remember seeing the thing only once in my childhood. I am in the mountains now, heavy snow we have this year. I saw little birds jumping on heaps of snow this morning and thought of your photos.

Wish you all the best & Happy New Year to you ka Nong Ton! :))

Ayuwat Jearwattanakanok said...

Thank you all for your comments!
Stu, I still haven't seen the ring-necked yet. Some authors actually treat Green and Ring-necked Pheasant as subspecies of the widely spread Common Pheasant though.

ขอบคุณมากๆครับพี่พรุน แต่ต้นเดาไม่ถูกจริงๆว่านกประจำชาติของฝรั่งเศสคืออะไร ส่วนไก่ฟ้าพญาลอก็ยังไม่เคยเห็นเลยครับ เมืองไทยหาดูยากเหลือเกิน

Charounette said...

พี่คงคุ้นเคยกับประเทศนี้มากไปหน่อยเลยคิดว่าใครเขาก็รู้กันว่าไก่โต้งเป็นสัตว์ประจำชาติของฝรั่งเศส มันไม่ได้จัดอยู่แต่ในสัตว์ประจำชาติประเภทปีกอย่างเดียว แต่พูดถึงสัตว์โดยรวมเลย พี่เรียกมันว่าไก่โต้งแต่มันจะตัวเล็กกว่าไก่ชนบ้านเรานะ มันกลม ๆ กว่าด้วยแหละ น่ารักดี แทคแคร์ค่ะ ไว้จะเข้ามาดูรูปอีก