Black Kites in Kyoto

Black kites (milvus migrans) flocking to scavenge food along Kamogawa behind Kyoto Prefectural Hospital, where people are eating lunch on April 12, 2013. These raptors, called TOMBI in Kansai (TOBI in Kanto), are commonly seen in the Japanese countryside, where, as solitary hunters, they prey on bugs, field mice, and other small animals.

In spite of warnings by Kyoto City officials, some people apparently feed them by throwing pieces of food into the air. I’ve watched these magnificent creatures hunt in Shiga many times. It’s disheartening to see them in flocks as scavengers, attracted by people who, failing to respect nature, feed them for entertainment.

Published by Greg Peterson

Professor Emeritus, Kyoto Notre Dame University (1977-2020). Since 1980 I have lived in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, where I enjoy outdoor activities, especially photography, hiking, and cycling.

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  1. Thank you for this video. My wife, my six-year-old daughter and I spent today by the Nyodo River in Ino, Kochi Prefecture. While we were there, we had the pleasure of the company of a number of Black Kites. They were really quite vocal throughout the day. I could hear some of the same beautiful song in your video. The ones we met didn’t behave with as much familiarity as the ones in your recording; I imagine that is because our location today was a place nearer to the condition of their natural habitat. All the same, they did seem to be very aware of our presence in the area. They sometimes flew quite low by us and circled the area that we were exploring repeatedly throughout the day. I never got the vibe that they wanted interfere with us in order to take or receive something, such as a share of our lunch. I agree with you that it is disappointing that people presume to mess with the natural order and balance of things for nothing but their own selfish and banal amusement.

    1. Thanks for your comments, and sorry for my very slow reply.

      Coexistence can lead to serious problems as humans destroy natural habitats and provide attractive sources of food. Here in Shiga Prefecture, the human population has increased quite a bit over the three decades that I’ve lived here, and recently we’ve seen a lot more scavengers, especially crows.

      It’s pretty shocking to see people feeding wild animals, but I see why they might do it. Too many folks have lost their respect for authentic nature. Warm and cuddly images and TV shows of people interacting with wild animals give the impression that wild creatures exist for our pleasure and that it is okay to feed and touch them and otherwise intervene in their lives.

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