Okhotsk Chapter
of the Wild Bird Society of Japan


Where can I learn more about the birds
of the Okhotsk region?

Unfortunately, not a lot of information about birds of our region is available in English. Even information in Japanese is sparse. We start here with the main references that are available in either language. The references below are all print references, such as books you can buy in a bookstore, on-line at our Amazon Japan or NHBS store, or borrow from a library; you can find on-line references on the Links page.

English References

Birds of East Asia: China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Russia, by Mark Brazil (Princeton University Press, 2009)

Since this guide covers the periphery around the Sea of Okhotsk as well as all of Hokkaido, it is the definitive and most up-to-date guide in English to birds of our region. The focus of the book is on eastern China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, and adjacent areas of eastern Russia such as eastern Siberia, Sakhalin, Kamchatka, and the Kuriles. Many species of birds, close to 1,000 to be exact, about 1.5 times the number in Japan alone, spend all or part of their lives in this region. A drawback of this book (for me) is that no Japanese names of birds have been given. But then it doesn't have Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, Russian, or Ainu names, either. (The left link is for NHBS in the UK.)
Now also available at the iTunes store as an iBook for iOS devices such as the iPhone, iPod, and iPad, making this 528-page guide much easier to carry in the field.

Check-list of Japanese Birds, 7th Revised Edition, The Ornithological Society of Japan (2012)

In both Japanese and English, and a major update from the previous edition of 2000. More information is here on the OSJ website (opening in a separate window).

A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Japan and Northeast Asia, by Tadao Shimba (Yale University Press, 2007)

This guide also covers the Sea of Okhotsk periphery but is less comprehensive than Brazil's guide (around 620 species) and focuses more on photos than text. The appendix includes a list of Japanese names corresponding to the English names, in taxonomical order.
(The left link is for NHBS in the UK.)



A Field Guide to the Birds of Japan, Wild Bird Society of Japan (Kodansha, 1982) [hardcover only though still field-friendly]

This book is no longer in print, unfortunately. The Japanese version is popular and still available. The Amazon Japan link at the right will give you up-to-date information on this book (opening in a separate window). It is occasionally available from third-party vendors at Amazon or NHBS. The description at NHBS: "Illustrations by Shinji Takano. Excellent guide, covering all species recorded in Japan, including offshore islands, up to March 1982, a total of 537 species." Although this guide is still in the NHBS catalog, NHBS does not provide a link to it because it is currently out of print. The Japanese version will probably be updated first, to reflect the new OSJ checklist, before an English version reappears. It would be nice to again have a truly field-friendly English guide like this one to the birds of Japan.

Clements Checklist of the Birds of the World, 6th Edition, by James F. Clements (Christopher Helm, 2007)

Updates to data in the print versions of Clements and other well-known checklists can be found on the websites of their respective organizations or other online sources such as Avibase.

The Nature of Japan, by Mark Brazil, illustrations by Hisashi Masuda (Japan Nature Guides, 2013)

A new book from Mark Brazil, author of Birds of East Asia noted above. "In this collection of 12 essays Mark Brazil reflects on thirty years of traveling the Japanese Archipelago marveling at its beautiful landscapes and fascinating biodiversity.... Brazil reveals his deep-seated respect for the natural world, his passion for Japanese wildlife, and his love of Hokkaido. His essays, written in a personal, reflective style and based on his personal experiences, carry the reader from Okinawa to Sado-jima, from the Japan Alps to Mt Fuji, but most frequently to his favourite parts of Hokkaido, Daisetsu, Shiretoko, Akan and Nemuro." [from the press release]

Japanese References

• 新訂 北海道野鳥図鑑 (Hokkaido Yachou Zukan [The Wild Birds of Hokkaido], 2nd edition), Text by Daisuke Kawai, Yasuhiro Kawasaki, Akihide Shimada; Illustrations by Jun Morohashi (Arisu-sha, 2013)

This work is the definitive local bird guide for Hokkaido. I'm not saying this because Kawasaki-san heads the Okhotsk Chapter but because it is true. His inspiration to write a bird guide like this came from Collins and some other guides to the birds of Europe (many of which occur in Hokkaido) and it shows. If you are studying Japanese and birds at the same time, I highly recommend this book, and even if you can't read Japanese, the Japanese names of birds are all in Katakana, so it will be very easy for you to learn them (the J Bird Names pages will be of help). Of course, this guide also includes scientific and English names, Ainu and Russian names, and plenty of photos. It has an index of scientific names as well. This edition has been updated to reflect revisions in the 7th edition of the OSJ's Checklist of Japanese Birds, 2012 (noted above).

• 日本の野鳥 (Nihon no Yachou [Wild Birds of Japan]), 3rd edition, by Takuya Kanouchi, Naoya Abe, Hideo Ueda (Yama-Kei Publishers, 2013)

• 日本の野鳥650 (Nihon no Yachou 650 [A Photographic Guide to the Birds of Japan], by Hirozo Maki and Toshikazu Onishi (Heibonsha, 2014 [available mid-January 2014])

The above two references are comprehensive guides to wild birds in Japan. Both include English names, scientific names, distribution maps, and a wealth of photos. They also have an index of scientific names, and the latter has an index of English names, too. The former even provides decipherable timelines of months during the year when birds can be sighted. Update: Both of these guides have been revised to reflect changes in the OSJ's checklist of birds of Japan that came out in 2012.

• フィールドガイド 日本の野鳥 (A Field Guide to the Birds of Japan), by Shinji Takano (Wild Bird Society of Japan, 2007)

For many years a popular guide to the birds of Japan. Uses illustrations of birds rather than photos, illustrations by Shinji Takano. This guide, first pubished in 1982, was updated in 2007, 23 years after Takano had died at the young age of 59 in 1984. Japanese birdwatchers long considered it the "bible" of Japanese birds. More details (in Japanese) are on a page here at the website of the WBSJ, a press release when the 2007 version was published. Hopefully an update to this guide will appear again soon, followed by a long-overdue English version, too.


• 野鳥の名前 (The Names of Wild Birds), by Naoya Abe, photos by Takuya Kanouchi (Yama-Kei Publishers, 2008)

This handy reference describes the origins of Japanese bird names, and sometimes also the English names, of 479 bird species in Japan. The text is thorough and photos are plentiful. Besides the katakana names, it provides English names, scientific names, and kanji renderings. Index is in katakana only, but birds in the book are ordered taxonomically.



The Pintail (Onaga-gamo; Anas acuta) is so common here in winter that I don't photograph them anymore. But the other day a friend sent me this photo and I gazed at it for a long time, enjoying all the details and character I had come to take for granted.
(Swan Park, Tofutsu Lake, 2 March 2010; photo: Madoka-san)