Karuizawa is famous throughout Japan as a treasure trove of wild birds and is one of the three major bird-watching areas in Japan (Karuizawa, Oku-Nikko, and the foot of Mt. In the early Showa period, Nakanishi Godo, founder of the Wild Bird Society of Japan, often visited Karuizawa, and at that time, bird-watching parties were attended by Kitahara Hakushu, Yanagida Kunio, and others.
Karuizawa, the difference in elevation from the top of Mount Asama to the foot of the mountain is as much as 1,500 meters. The diverse natural environment, including forests, grasslands, and wetlands, allows many species of wild birds to inhabit the area, and their populations are abundant. Depending on the season
The variety of birds that can be seen changes from summer to winter, but about 130 species of birds can be seen throughout the year. Especially from late April to June, the number of bird species is the largest of the year, and about 100 species can be observed. The early morning chorus of birds during this period is especially wonderful.
In the deciduous broadleaf forests and larch forests spreading at the foot of Mt. Asama, wild birds living in the forests can be seen, and in the fallow rice paddies and fields spreading in Minamikaruizawa and Hattachi, wild birds living in the grasslands can be observed. In Kumoba Pond, birds living near the water can be seen throughout the year.
■Birds of the town, red-breasted nuthatch
The red-winged blackbird is designated as the town bird. The red-winged blackbird is a summer bird of the thrush family, about the size between a sparrow and a dove, and as its name suggests, it is characterized by its bright orange color from breast to flank. From May to July, in the mornings and evenings, they perch on the cords of tall trees in the villa area and chirp in a clear voice that reaches far into the distance. It is a rare bird in the world with a limited distribution, with breeding grounds ranging from central Honshu to the Kuril Islands and Sakhalin. In recent years, its population has been declining in Karuizawa, and there are concerns about the bird’s survival.
■ Recommended birding spots
- ~Karuizawa Wild Bird Forest, a National Establishment
- About 5 minutes drive from Nakakaruizawa Station. There is a 3-km observation trail in the 100-hectare forest at an elevation of about 1,000 meters. Most of the typical summer birds that come to Karuizawa can be seen here, such as the yellow-rumped warbler, oriole, black thrush, and nojiko.
- ～Chigataki Waterfall Trail
- This is a 1-km walking trail that leads north from the Sezon Museum of Contemporary Art to Chigataki Falls from the end of the forest road. While listening to the cool sound of the stream, you can observe wild birds that live along the stream, such as the Japanese wren and the raven.
■Summer Birds Birds that migrate from the south to raise their young in the summer.
Of the approximately 130 species of wild birds found in Karuizawa, 50, or half of them, migrate from the south to raise their young. These are “summer birds. Summer birds are birds that spend the winter in Southeast Asia, the Philippines, Indonesia, etc. and come to Japan in the summer. They generally arrive in late April or early May, right around Golden Week, and leave Japan in September or October. April is the breeding season.
Of the approximately 100 species of wild birds that can be seen in Karuizawa from April to August, about half are summer birds. The males of these summer birds, which migrate to Karuizawa to raise their young, take up their territories and perch high up on the cribs of trees, chirping actively. Their singing peaks in late April and May, when they are in the early stages of their migration, and the most beautiful chirping can be heard for about two hours before and after sunrise.
Birds in the forest
Many of the summer birds that come to Karuizawa are forest dwellers. The red-winged blackbird, which is the town bird, the yellow-and-black contrast of the yellow and black woodpeckers, the oriole with its beautiful cobalt blue plumage on its back, the black thrush with its conspicuous orange beak on its black body, the red-eyed blackbird with its round, round eyes, and others are busy raising their young here and there in the forests. There are also birds that prefer to stay in the thicket and are rarely seen, such as the Siberian blue robin, whose beautiful lapis lazuli-colored backs are hard to see, and the buzzard, which chirps like an insect.
(Other summer birds seen: wood thrush, yellow-throated warbler, marmosets, sandpipers, yellow-throated warblers, yellow-throated warblers, black-browed reed warblers, and red-breasted nuthatches).
■Birds in the meadow
Summer birds that prefer the grassland environment migrate to the fallow fields and farmlands of Minamikaruizawa. The most common are the great tits, which fly around noisily in the sky in the mornings and evenings, and the white-winged stilt with its cute reddish-brown cheeks and the little reed warbler with its wonderful, rhythmic chirping.
(Other summer birds seen: Northern Saw-tailed Flycatcher, Great Blue-and-white Oystercatcher, Ceccatcher, etc.)
Resident birds Birds that can be seen in Karuizawa all year round
Resident birds are birds that stay and live in the same place all year round. However, just because the same type of bird can be seen all the time does not mean that the same individuals stay there (for example, sparrows can be seen in the same place all year round, but they are migratory). Even though they are resident birds, they come and go within Japan.
A member of the resident bird family, the titmouse is the most commonly seen in the forest. It is characterized by a single black line running from its breast to its belly. This pattern looks like a tie. There are many other members of the tit family, such as the kogarara, ruffed tit, ruffed tit, titmouse, and enaga, which are collectively known as the tit family.
Woodpeckers perched vertically on tree trunks to feed are also common. The red-headed woodpecker, with its black back and white inverted “figure eight” pattern, the blue-headed woodpecker, with its light green color, and the pygmy woodpecker, about the size of a sparrow, are also common.
(Other resident birds seen include: buzzards, mountain lions, wood pigeons, owls, cicadas, wagtails, wagtails, shrikes, kinglets, wrens, wrens, wagtails, sparrows, jays, etc.)
■ Winter Birds Birds that migrate from the north to overwinter in winter.
Winter birds are birds that migrate from northern countries such as Siberia to the warmer climate of Japan to overwinter. They do not come to Japan to breed, but simply live quietly looking for food, so they can often be overlooked if one is not careful. The most common winter bird in Karuizawa is the Japanese nightingale. The rosy-colored rosefinch stands out as the most beautiful of the birds, and flocks can number in the hundreds.
Many birds have distinctive characteristics, such as the cicada.
In addition, ducks such as teal rest on the surface of Kumoba Pond in winter. （Other winter birds that can be seen at Kumoba Pond include the Kashirahaka, the Reverdin’s Blue, the White-throated Thrush, the White-winged Stint, the Mahiwa, the Bewick’s Flycatcher, the Brown-crowned Nightjar, and the Yellow-breasted Nyctereutes.)