Owls of Okinawa by Shawn Miller

Okinawa has three resident species of Owls. They generally live in trees in mountain forests,  forest parks and sometimes in residential areas.  All three owls are fairly small (20-33cm). They are hard to find in the day, but as night falls their large shiny eyes give them away. These beautiful night dwellers feed on small lizards, rodents, frogs and insects.

The Collard Scops-owl (Otus lempiji) has beautiful red eyes and short pointy ears. It can be challenging to photograph owls. You have to be fast acting with your camera, the owls will fly off quickly after a few photographs.

This is an example of undesirable red eye reflected (Red-eye) below.  You generally want to try to avoid this but, I only had had a few shots with the flash on the camera, pointing straight at the owl high in a tree.

Collard Scops-owl - Okuma resort

Collard Scops-owl – Okuma resort

Collard Scops-owl - Yanbaru forest

Collard Scops-owl – Yanbaru forest

The Brown hawk owl (Ninox scutulata) is the most abundant of the three small owls. It has beautiful bright yellow eyes. This owl looks more like a hawk than an owl.

Brown hawk owl (Ninox scutulata)

Brown hawk owl (Ninox scutulata)

Brown hawk owl - Izena Island

Brown hawk owl – Izena Island

The Ryukyu scops owl (Otus elegans) is mainly found in the northern part of Okinawa. The Yanbaru forest is a designated wildlife protection area.

Ryukyu Scops Owl -Yanbaru

Ryukyu Scops Owl -Yanbaru

The owls are often found hunting on forest roads. The insects are attracted to the roadside lights which bring in the owls. The bush cricket (Mecopoda elongata) is one of their favourite meals.

Bush cricket (Mecopoda elongata)

Bush cricket (Mecopoda elongata)

I  wonder if the owls can see fluorescence. Many of the stick bugs, grasshoppers and crickets fluoresce under blue light,

Katydid under blue light

Katydid under blue light

Sadly I have seen more dead owls than alive!

Hawk owl - Ogimi village

Hawk owl – Ogimi village

Let’s protect the wildlife of the Yanbaru forest. Have a great day!

The Good, the Bad or the Evil – The Crow’s of Okinawa

The Jungle Crow (Corvus macrorhynchos) is found throughout the Ryukyu Islands. They are abundant here and can be found all over Okinawa. Populations have increased due to the readily available food, left on the side of the road and in dumpsters. It’s important to keep your trash enclosed in cages to prevent the crows from getting to it.

  • Scientific name: Corvus macrorhynchos
  • Local name: Jungle crow
  • Distribution:  Ryukyu Islands
  • Habitat:  Farms, cities, forests and grasslands.
  • Diet:  Eats almost everything
  • Average size:  50cm  body length 
  • Color:  Black
Jungle crow and plastic

Jungle crow and plastic © Shawn Miller


Jungle crow -Okinawa Japan

Jungle crow in flight © Shawn Miller

The farmers in Onna village put up this deterrent to keep the crows from coming back.

Crow cross -Onna village

Crow cross -Onna village © Shawn Miller

Crows can be vicious predators. They often harass other birds, showing off their strength.


Aggressive behavior © Shawn Miller

These intelligent birds work as a team to get what they want. I have personally seen them raid baby birds from the nest. I have seen them fly away with juvenile woodpeckers, rails and swallows.

Crow taking the okinawa woodpecker from the nest

Crow taking the Okinawa woodpecker from the nest © Shawn Miller

To control the population of jungle crows in northern Okinawa, they use large traps to catch them in. One way in and no way out!

Crow trap - Northern Okinawa

Crow trap – Northern Okinawa © Shawn Miller

Possibly a strange growth that occurred from an injury (broken beak). Could this be one of the few crows that made a successful escape from a trap?

A crow with a hook beak

A crow with an extended hook beak © Shawn Miller

As much as we dislike the crow, they do have a purpose in the ecosystem. They clean the dead animals (road kill) off the road, keeping our environment clean from rotting carcasses. I often see them feeding on cats, snakes, lizards, birds and rats dead in the road.

Mongoose -roadkill

Mongoose -roadkill © Shawn Miller

Crow feeding on a cat

Crow feeding on a cat by Shawn Miller © Shawn Miller


Crows eating roadkill -Okinawa © Shawn Miller

They also feed on the large green caterpillars that destroy the farmer’s taro (Taanmu) crops in Kin village

Crows of Okinawa

Crows of Okinawa -© Shawn Miller

Mutualism of Commensalism?

I believe this is Mutualism. Both animals possibly benefit from each other.  The crow cleans the parasites on the boar’s skin and also acts as a warning system when a threats are in the area.  The wild boar uproots the ground,  which gives access to insects, grubs and worms for the crow. This was my first time observing this behaviour in the wild.

Jungle crow and the Boar

Jungle crow and the Boar – © Shawn Miller

As soon as the boar spotted me it fled the scene. The crow attempted to stay mounted but could not keep up with the boar.

Jungle crow and the Wild Boar

Jungle crow and the Wild Boar © Shawn Miller

Have a great day!


The Ryukyu Robin, Endemic birds of Okinawa

The Ryukyu Robin (Larvivora komadori namiyei)  is a subspecies endemic to northern Okinawa.  It is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN red list of threatened species.  Its main threats are habitat loss and the introduction of invasive species.

  • Scientific name:  Larvivora komadori namiyei (Stejneger, 1887)
  • Distribution:  Northern Okinawa
  • Habitat:  Dense leaf littered forests 
  • Diet:  Earthworms, spiders, insects and fruit
  • Average Size:  140mm 

The Ryukyu robin in its natural habitat. The male has the distinctive black throat and face.

Male Ryukyu Robin

Male Ryukyu Robin, Yanbaru forest

The female Ryukyu robin perching on a guide rope at Hiji falls, Okinawa.

Female Ryukyu robin

Female Ryukyu robin (Larvivora komadori)

A male Ryukyu robin searching for insects on the ground.

Male Ryukyu robin

Male Ryukyu robin

Ryukyu robin

Ryukyu robin

Ryukyu Robin -Yanbaru forest

Ryukyu Robin -Yanbaru forest

Time for a nap on a fern tree.

Ryukyu robin resting

Ryukyu robin resting

These small birds are often seen early in the morning feeding on insects on the road. Watch your speed and pay particular attention between dusk and dawn.

Watch your speed!

Watch your speed!

A male Ryukyu robin that was killed by a speeding motor vehicle on Route 2 in northern Okinawa.

Roadkill  Larvivora komadori

Roadkill – January 17th 2016

Let’s protect the beautiful wildlife of Okinawa, Japan.

Have a great day!


Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens – Birds Of Okinawa

The Canon Ef 400mm f/5.6 USM lens is a light weight high performance prime lens. The auto focus system is impressively fast without hesitation. It performs best when photographing birds in flight and animals on the move. This is a very sharp high quality lens and would recommend purchasing it if you are on a limited budget.

The Common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) is one of my favorite birds to photograph with the the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens.

Common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

Common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis)

A beautiful Ryukyu hawk owl spotted during daylight.

The Ryukyu hawk owl

The Ryukyu hawk owl (Ninox scutulata)

The Black Faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor) is a common visitor in Southern Okinawa.
The Spoonbill is critically endangered and has an estimated population of less than 3000.

The Black Faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor).

The Black Faced Spoonbill (Platalea minor).

The Pryer’s woodpecker (Sapheopipo Noguchii) is the prefecture bird of Okinawa and designated as a natural treasure of Japan. It is a rare species only found in the northern part of Okinawa.

Pryer's woodpecker  (Sapheopipo Noguchii)  Yanbaru forest

Pryer’s woodpecker (Sapheopipo Noguchii) Yanbaru forest

A Wiskered tern (Childonias hybridus) shaking away – Kin, Okinawa.


Wiskered tern (Childonias hybridus)

The Japanese wood pigeon is listed as near threatened on the IUCN red list of threatened species. A very difficult bird to photograph.


Japanese wood pigeon

The Rudy kingfisher is a summer visitor. Another bird hard to photograph


Rudy kingfisher (Halcyon coromanda)

 The Japanese white eye (Zosterops japonicus) is popular to photograph in January. The green and yellow feathers compliment the pink cherry tree blossoms.  

Mejiro - Japanese white eye, Okinawa

Mejiro – Japanese white eye

The Okinawa rail (Gallirallus okinawae) is a flightless bird only found in the northern part of Okinawa. It is a protected species and declared a living natural monument. It is currently listed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as an endangered species.  In 2012 populations of this endemic bird were estimated at 1500 by the Environment Ministry.

Okinawa Rail

Okinawa Rail ( Gallirallus okinawae)

The Glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus) is a rare visitor in Okinawa. Nature Photographers travel from Mainland Japan to photograph this beautiful bird.

Glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)

Glossy ibis (Plegadis falcinellus)

The male Japanese sparrowhawk ( Accipiter gularis ) has stunning bright red eyes. This bird can pluck the feathers off a sparrow within minutes.

Male Japanese sparrowhawk   ( Accipiter gularis )

Male Japanese sparrowhawk ( Accipiter gularis )

The Common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) dive bombing a fish. This bird is a spectacular hunter.

Common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) dive bombing a fish

Common kingfisher (Alcedo atthis) dive bombing a fish

Check out more Images of Birds of Okinawa-

All Images were photographed using the Canon 70d with the Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens.

Canon 70d with 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens

Canon 70d with 400mm f/5.6L USM Lens

Have a great day!