In early January, 2019, I visited several of my favorite places to see wild birds. All of these locations have been heavily altered by human activity.

Here in Ritto City farmers have been preparing fields for spring planting. Often we can see birds in freshly cultivated fields.

Farmer plowing a field
Wagtails behind a farmer plowing a field
White wagtail (Motacilla alba  lugens, ハクセキレイ)
White wagtail (Motacilla alba lugens, ハクセキレイ)

Tree sparrows feed in and around fields and perch in trees that have been planted along a nearby road.

Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus saturatus, スズメ)
Eurasian tree sparrow (Passer montanus saturatus, スズメ)

Some reservoirs are surrounded by woodlands that attract many birds, including cormorants, egrets, and herons.

Great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo, カワウ)
Great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo, カワウ)
Great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo, カワウ)
Great cormorants (Phalacrocorax carbo, カワウ)
Grey heron (Ardea cinerea, アオサギ)
Grey heron (Ardea cinerea, アオサギ) at the upper reservoir near Ono Ramp in Ritto City

Sometimes birds appear in places that seem hostile to nature. For example, on January 7th two white wagtails wandered into the ground floor space near the vending machines and restrooms at Terhara Station (手原駅) in Ritto City. One even walked into a restroom. These birds were much more relaxed around people than wagtails out in fields.

White wagtail (Motacilla alba  lugens, ハクセキレイ)
White wagtail (Motacilla alba lugens, ハクセキレイ)
White wagtail (Motacilla alba lugens, ハクセキレイ)
White wagtail (Motacilla alba lugens, ハクセキレイ)

Some parks superficially resemble natural environments with streams, ponds, bushes, trees, and ground cover. Birds take advantage of such environments.

Eastern spot-billed duck (カルガモ)
Eastern spot-billed duck (カルガモ) and carp at Hatonomori Park in Moriyama City (滋賀県 守山市 鳩の森公園)
Little egret (Egretta garzetta, コサギ)
Little egret (Egretta garzetta, コサギ)
Oriental turtle-dove (Streptopelia orientalis, キジバト)
Oriental turtle-dove (Streptopelia orientalis, キジバト)

Unfortunately, grass or other ground cover is often destroyed by human activity or cut too short to support many insects and other small creatures. This loss of biodiversity hurts bird populations. Nevertheless, even athletic grounds and ground golf courses can provide feeding grounds for some birds.

Rock pigeons (Columba  livia, カワラバト)
Rock pigeons (Columba livia, カワラバト)
Rock pigeon (Columba  livia, カワラバト)
Rock pigeon (Columba livia, カワラバト)
White wagtail (Motacilla alba  lugens, ハクセキレイ)
White wagtail (Motacilla alba lugens, ハクセキレイ)

Some artificial environments attract birds by accident. I often see a grey wagtail at an irrigation canal near my home. This bird sometimes perches on trash.

Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ)
Grey wagtail (Motacilla cinerea, キセキレイ)

At Lake Biwa gulls perch on posts and other artificial structures.

Black-headed gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus, ユリカモメ)
Black-headed gulls (Chroicocephalus ridibundus, ユリカモメ) at Lake Biwa

Even the Yasugawa riverbed has become an artificial environment from which natural vegetation has been stripped away. Egrets, herons, and cormorants congregate out in the open, but they also make use of vegetation along the riverbank and nearby bridge foundations.

Great egrets, grey herons, and great cormorants at Yasugawa
Great egrets, grey herons, and great cormorants

To some extent birds can adapt to habitat alteration and make use of artificial structures, but they still need food and shelter. If we continue to destroy habitats in which they can thrive, they will disappear.

See more photos in my Flickr photostream or one of my albums.

Published by Greg Peterson

Professor Emeritus, Kyoto Notre Dame University. I have retired from full-time service (1977-2014) and now offer weekly lectures in interpersonal and intercultural communication. Since 1980 I have lived in Shiga Prefecture, Japan, where I enjoy outdoor activities, especially photography, hiking, and cycling.

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