Okinawa rail

The Okinawa rail (Gallirallus okinawae) is a species of bird in the rail family, Rallidae. It is endemic to Okinawa Island in Japan where it is known as the Yanbaru kuina (ヤンバルクイナ(山原水鶏), "Yanbaru rail"). Its existence was only confirmed in 1978 and it was formally described in 1981 although unidentified rails had been recorded on the island since at least 1973 and local stories of a bird known as the agachi kumira may refer to this species.[2]

It is a medium-sized and almost flightless rail with short wings and tail, olive-brown upperparts, black underparts with white bars and a red bill and legs.

It occurs in subtropical moist forests and in neighbouring habitats. It nests and feeds on the ground but usually roosts in trees. It is classified as an endangered species and is threatened by habitat loss and introduced predators.[1]

Okinawa rail
Okinawa Rail
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Gruiformes
Family: Rallidae
Genus: Gallirallus
Species:
G. okinawae
Binomial name
Gallirallus okinawae
(Yamashina & Mano, 1981)
Synonyms

Taxonomy

The species was first described in 1981 by Yoshimaro Yamashina and T. Mano in the Journal of the Yamashina Institute of Ornithology.[3] This was based on a specimen found dead on June 2 at Mt. Fuenchiji in Kunigami District, Okinawa.[2][4] It was initially placed in the genus Rallus but then moved to Gallirallus, a genus of medium-sized, often flightless, rails found in Australasia and Asia. It is closely related to the barred rail (G. torquatus) and New Britain rail (G. insignis) as well as to the Calayan rail (G. calayanensis), another recently discovered species.[4][5]

Description

Gallirallus okinawae Stuffed specimen
Stuffed specimen of Gallirallus okinawae at the National Museum of Nature and Science, Tokyo, Japan.

It is about 30 cm long with a wingspan of 50 cm and a weight of around 435 g.[6] It is almost flightless and has very short wings and tail. The bill is large and bright red with a whitish tip. The long, strong legs are red as are the iris and eye-ring.[4]

The upperparts are olive-brown while the underparts are black with narrow white bars. The face is black with a white spot between the bill and eye and a white line behind the eye, extending back to the side of the neck. The undertail-coverts are dark brown with pale bars.[4]

Juvenile birds are paler than the adults and are mottled white below rather than barred. The spot in front of the eye is tinged with brown while the stripe behind is shorter than in the adult. The bill and iris are brownish and the legs and feet are yellow-ochre.[4]

It is a noisy bird with a variety of loud calls. It calls most often early and late in the day, usually from the ground but sometimes from trees. Pairs often call together and up to 12 birds have been heard in one area.[2]

Distribution and habitat

It is found only in Yanbaru, the northern part of Okinawa Island in the Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan, from where it gets its Japanese name. It has a total range of just 260 km2. It occurs from sea-level to the highest mountains at 498 m above sea-level. In winter, some birds move lower down or move a little further south of the breeding range.[4]

It mainly occurs in evergreen broad-leaved forest but also occurs in marshes, grassland and cultivated land close to forested areas and water. Itaji (Castanopsis sieboldii) is the dominant tree in the rail's habitat but it also occurs among other trees such as Ryukyu Pine (Pinus luchuensis). It requires dense ground vegetation as well as standing water for bathing.[4]

Behaviour

It is a poor flyer but it can run rapidly. It spends most of its time on the ground but usually roosts in trees, climbing up to sleep on a branch or sloping trunk. In the morning, it preens and stretches before dropping straight to the ground.[4] It is usually found in dense cover but comes into the open to bathe. It bathes for short bouts of 2–4 minutes before preening for 4–20 minutes.[2]

It feeds on lizards, amphibians, snails and large insects such as locusts. Food is mainly taken from the forest floor but may also be taken from shallow water.[4]

Pairs are monogamous and appear to mate for life. The nest is built on the ground and made of leaves, grass and fern fronds. The eggs are laid between May and July and there are 2–4 in a clutch. The eggs are oval in shape and white with reddish, pinkish or brownish markings concentrated at the larger end. The downy young are black with yellowish legs and feet and a white bill with a blackish base and tip. The eggs and young are often predated by the habu (Trimeresurus flavoviridis), a venomous snake.[4]

Status and conservation

The species is classified as endangered by BirdLife International because of its small, declining population and restricted range. The total population was estimated at 1,800 birds in 1986. Surveys between 1996 and 2004 suggested a significant decline to about 720 birds and a northward contraction of the range of about 40%. However, a survey in 2006 found no further range contraction.[7]

It is threatened by the loss and fragmentation of its forest habitat due to logging, agriculture and the building of roads, dams and golf courses. Introduced predators such as cats, dogs and the small Asian mongoose probably have an impact while some birds are killed by vehicles on roads.[7]

The species is legally protected in Japan and has been declared a "Natural Monument" and a "Special Bird for Protection".[2] Yanbaru became a national park in 1996 and several forest sites have been bought by conservation organizations as nature reserves. Trapping is taking place to reduce predator numbers and traffic calming has been introduced to some areas to reduce the number of birds killed on roads. A captive breeding programme is planned for the future.[7] The Japanese Ministry of Environment has plans to increase the population of the Okinawa rail by controlled breeding in special facilities. By 2017, they want to increase the number of this endangered bird to 200.[8]

References

  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2016). "Hypotaenidia okinawae". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN. 2016: e.T22692412A93352408. Retrieved 20 March 2019.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  2. ^ a b c d e Brazil, Mark A. (1991) The Birds of Japan, Christopher Helm, London.
  3. ^ Peterson, Alan P. (2002) Zoonomen Nomenclatural data. Downloaded on 22 October 2008.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Taylor, Barry & Ber van Perlo (1998) Rails: A Guide to the Rails, Crakes, Gallinules and Coots of the World, Pica Press, Sussex.
  5. ^ BirdLife International (2004) Remarkable rail discovered "just in time". Downloaded on 22 October 2008.
  6. ^ Del Hoyo, J. Elliott, A. and Sargatal, J (1996) Handbook of the Birds of the World—Hoatzins to Auks Vol 3 Lynx Edicions Barcelona
  7. ^ a b c BirdLife International (2008) Species factsheet: Gallirallus okinawae. Downloaded on 15 October 2008.
  8. ^ Okinawa Rail – Japan’s Endangered Bird. Endangered Species 360°. Retrieved August 1st, 2013.

External links

Barred rail

The barred rail (Gallirallus torquatus) is a species of bird in the rail family Rallidae. The species was formerly placed in the genus Rallus and is often placed in the genus Hypotaenidia; for example that is the genus used by the IUCN and Handbook of the Birds of the World. It is closely related to the Okinawa rail and the New Britain rail.

The barred rail is widespread species, found across the Philippines, the islands of and around Sulawesi, and on and around north western New Guinea. The species is common, but shy and difficult to see.

Camp Gonsalves

Camp Gonsalves is a U.S. Marines jungle warfare training area, established in 1958, located in Northern Okinawa, Japan, across the villages of Kunigami and Higashi. It is the largest U.S training facility in Okinawa.

The camp is located in the Yanbaru forest protected area, raising long time ecological concerns enhanced by the 2016 plan to built new helipads.

Castanopsis sieboldii

Castanopsis sieboldii, also known as the Itajii Chinkapin or Itajii, is a species of evergreen tree that lives in subtropical eastern Asia.

This is a climax species that is commonly found in the Japanese temperate rainforest. Specimens are also present within the forest area of the Tokyo Imperial Palace.

Castanopsis sieboldii was once thought to be a subspecies of the similar Castanopsis cuspidata.

Plants and animals associated with this tree include:

Aspidistra elatior, the cast-iron plant, grows in the understorey.

Acrocercops mantica, Chrysocercops castanopsidis, and Lymantria albescens larvae of these Asian moths likely mine the leaves.

Amantis nawai, a small praying mantis species native to Eastern Asia is known to live around C. sieboldii where it eats insects.

Okinawa rail, a Japanese bird, lives among these trees.

Dugong

The dugong (; Dugong dugon) is a medium-sized marine mammal. It is one of four living species of the order Sirenia, which also includes three species of manatees. It is the only living representative of the once-diverse family Dugongidae; its closest modern relative, Steller's sea cow (Hydrodamalis gigas), was hunted to extinction in the 18th century. The dugong is the only strictly herbivorous marine mammal.

The dugong is the only sirenian in its range, which spans the waters of some 40 countries and territories throughout the Indo-West Pacific. The dugong is largely dependent on seagrass communities for subsistence and is thus restricted to the coastal habitats which support seagrass meadows, with the largest dugong concentrations typically occurring in wide, shallow, protected areas such as bays, mangrove channels, the waters of large inshore islands and inter-reefal waters. The northern waters of Australia between Shark Bay and Moreton Bay are believed to be the dugong's contemporary stronghold.

Like all modern sirenians, the dugong has a fusiform body with no dorsal fin or hind limbs. The forelimbs or flippers are paddle-like. The dugong is easily distinguished from the manatees by its fluked, dolphin-like tail, but also possesses a unique skull and teeth. Its snout is sharply downturned, an adaptation for feeding in benthic seagrass communities. The molar teeth are simple and peg-like unlike the more elaborate molar dentition of manatees.

The dugong has been hunted for thousands of years for its meat and oil. Traditional hunting still has great cultural significance in several countries in its modern range, particularly northern Australia and the Pacific Islands. The dugong's current distribution is fragmented, and many populations are believed to be close to extinction. The IUCN lists the dugong as a species vulnerable to extinction, while the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species limits or bans the trade of derived products. Despite being legally protected in many countries, the main causes of population decline remain anthropogenic and include fishing-related fatalities, habitat degradation and hunting. With its long lifespan of 70 years or more, and slow rate of reproduction, the dugong is especially vulnerable to extinction.

Flightless bird

Flightless birds are birds that through evolution lost the ability to fly. There are over 60 extant species, including the well known ratites (ostriches, emu, cassowaries, rheas and kiwi) and penguins. The smallest flightless bird is the Inaccessible Island rail (length 12.5 cm, weight 34.7 g). The largest (both heaviest and tallest) flightless bird, which is also the largest living bird, is the ostrich (2.7 m, 156 kg). Ostriches are farmed for their decorative feathers, meat and their skins, which are used to make leather.

Many domesticated birds, such as the domestic chicken and domestic duck, have lost the ability to fly for extended periods, although their ancestral species, the red junglefowl and mallard, respectively, are capable of extended flight. A few particularly bred birds, such as the Broad Breasted White turkey, have become totally flightless as a result of selective breeding; the birds were bred to grow massive breast meat that weighs too much for the bird's wings to support in flight.

Flightlessness has evolved in many different birds independently. There were families of flightless birds, such as the now extinct Phorusrhacidae, that evolved to be powerful terrestrial predators. Taking this to a greater extreme, the terror birds (and their relatives the bathornithids), eogruids, geranoidids, gastornithiforms, and dromornithids (all extinct) all evolved similar body shapes – long legs, long necks and big heads – but none of them were closely related. Furthermore, they also share traits of being giant, flightless birds with vestigial wings, long legs, and long necks with some of the ratites, although they are not related.

Gallirallus

Gallirallus is a genus that contains about a dozen living, and several recently extinct, species of rails that live in the Australasian-Pacific region. The genus is characterised by an ability to colonise relatively small and isolated islands and thereafter to evolve flightless forms, many of which became extinct following Polynesian settlement.

History of the Ryukyu Islands

This article is about the history of the Ryukyu Islands southwest of the main islands of Japan.

Kunigami, Okinawa

Kunigami (国頭村, Kunigami-son, Kunigami: Kunzan, Okinawan: Kunjan) is a village in Kunigami District, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan. It occupies the north tip of Okinawa Island, with the East China Sea to the west, Pacific Ocean to the east, and villages of Higashi and Ōgimi to the south.As of 2015, the village has a population of 4,908 and a population density of 25.20 persons per km2. The total area is 194.80 km2.

List of bird species discovered since 1900

This article describes bird species discovered since 1900. Before the 20th century, and into its early decades, the pace of discovery (and "discovery") of new species was fast; during this period, with numerous collecting expeditions into species-rich areas not previously visited by western ornithologists, up to several hundred new species per decade were being described. Many of these were of course not new to the local people, but since then, the pace has slowed, and new species are generally only being found in remote areas, or among cryptic or secretive groups of species. Nonetheless, several tens of species were described for the first time even during the 1990s. Considerable time can pass between discovery and publication, for a number of reasons.

Individual countries particularly rich in species newly described during this period are:

Brazil

Colombia

Peru

Indonesia

PhilippinesA number of individuals have been particularly prolific in describing new species, such as:

Niels Krabbe

Paul Coopmans

Bret Whitney

List of endemic birds of Japan

This article is one of a series providing information about endemism among birds in the world's various zoogeographic zones. For an overview of this subject see Endemism in birds.

List of rail species

The avian family Rallidae comprise the rails, crakes, and coots. The International Ornithological Congress (IOC) recognizes these 156 species distributed among 41 genera, 20 of which have only one species. Twenty-one of the species in the list have gone extinct since A.D. 1500; they are marked (E).This list is presented according to the IOC taxonomic sequence and can also be sorted alphabetically by common name and binomial.

Okinawa Island

Okinawa Island (沖縄本島, Okinawa-hontō, alternatively 沖縄島 Okinawa-jima; Okinawan: 沖縄/うちなー Uchinaa or 地下/じじ jiji; Kunigami: ふちなー Fuchináa) is the largest of the Okinawa Islands and the Ryukyu (Nansei) Islands of Japan in the Kyushu region. It is the smallest and least populated of the five main islands of Japan. The island is approximately 70 miles (110 km) long and an average 7 miles (11 km) wide, and has an area of 1,206.98 square kilometers (466.02 sq mi). It is roughly 640 kilometres (400 mi) south of the main island of Kyushu and the rest of Japan. It is 500 km (300 mi) north of Taiwan. The total population of Okinawa Island is 1,384,762. The Greater Naha area has roughly 800,000 residents while the city itself has about 320,000 people. Naha is home to the prefectural seat of Okinawa Prefecture on the southwestern part of Okinawa Island. It has a humid subtropical climate. Okinawa is part of the Kyushu region.

Okinawa's population is among the longest living peoples in the world. Residents have less cancer, heart disease and dementia than Americans, while Okinawan women live longer than anywhere else on Earth.Okinawa has been a critical strategic location for the United States Armed Forces since the end of World War II. The island hosts around 26,000 US military personnel, about half of the total complement of the United States Forces Japan, spread among 32 bases and 48 training sites. US bases in Okinawa played critical roles in the Korean War, Vietnam War, War in Afghanistan, and Iraq War. The presence of the US military in Okinawa has caused political controversy both on the island and elsewhere in Japan.

Okinawan language

The Okinawan language (沖縄口/ウチナーグチ, Uchinaaguchi, [ʔut͡ɕinaːɡut͡ɕi]) or Central Okinawan, is a Northern Ryukyuan language spoken primarily in the southern half of the island of Okinawa, as well as in the surrounding islands of Kerama, Kumejima, Tonaki, Aguni and a number of smaller peripheral islands. Central Okinawan distinguishes itself from the speech of Northern Okinawa, which is classified independently as the Kunigami language. Both languages have been designated as endangered by the UNESCO Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger since its launch in February 2009.Though Okinawan encompasses a number of local dialects, the Shuri-Naha variant is generally recognized as the de facto standard, as it had been used as the official language of the Ryūkyū Kingdom since the reign of King Shō Shin (1477–1526). Moreover, as the former capital of Shuri was built around the royal palace, the language used by the royal court became the regional and literary standard, which thus flourished in songs and poems written during that era.

Within Japan, Okinawan is often not seen as a language unto itself but is referred to as the Okinawan dialect (沖縄方言, Okinawa hōgen) or more specifically the Central and Southern Okinawan dialects (沖縄中南部諸方言, Okinawa Chūnanbu Sho hōgen). Okinawan speakers are undergoing language shift as they switch to Japanese, since language use in Okinawa today is far from stable. Okinawans are assimilating and accenting standard Japanese due to the similarity of the two languages, standardized and centralized education system, the media, business and social contact with mainlanders and previous attempts from Japan to suppress the native languages. Okinawan is still spoken by many older people. It is also kept alive in popular music, tourist shows and in theaters featuring a local drama called uchinaa shibai, which depict local customs and manners.

Quiz! Hexagon II

Quiz! Hexagon II (クイズ!ヘキサゴンII, Kuizu! Hekisagon Tsū) was a Japanese quiz variety show on Fuji Television, airing Wednesdays from 19:00-19:57 Japan Standard Time. The show began airing on October 19, 2005, ending on September 28, 2011 with 247 episodes aired; its predecessor, Quiz! Hexagon - This Evening is a Quiz Parade!! (クイズ!ヘキサゴン 今夜はクイズパレード!!, Kuizu! Hekisagon Kon'ya wa Kuizu Parēdo!!) aired from June 5 through October 12, 2005.

Ryukyu Islands

The Ryukyu Islands (琉球諸島, Ryūkyū-shotō), also known as the Nansei Islands (南西諸島, Nansei-shotō, lit. "Southwest Islands") or the Ryukyu Arc (琉球弧, Ryūkyū-ko), are a chain of Japanese islands that stretch southwest from Kyushu to Taiwan: the Ōsumi, Tokara, Amami, Okinawa, and Sakishima Islands (further divided into the Miyako and Yaeyama Islands), with Yonaguni the westernmost. The larger are mostly high islands and the smaller mostly coral. The largest is Okinawa Island.

The climate of the islands ranges from humid subtropical climate (Köppen climate classification Cfa) in the north to tropical rainforest climate (Köppen climate classification Af) in the south. Precipitation is very high and is affected by the rainy season and typhoons. Except the outlying Daitō Islands, the island chain has two major geologic boundaries, the Tokara Strait (between the Tokara and Amami Islands) and the Kerama Gap (between the Okinawa and Miyako Islands). The islands beyond the Tokara Strait are characterized by their coral reefs.

The Ōsumi and Tokara Islands, the northernmost of the islands, fall under the cultural sphere of the Kyushu region of Japan; the people are ethnically Japanese and speak a variation of the Kagoshima dialect of Japanese. The Amami, Okinawa, Miyako, and Yaeyama Islands have a native population collectively called the Ryukyuan people, named for the former Ryukyu Kingdom that ruled them. The varied Ryukyuan languages are traditionally spoken on these islands, and the major islands have their own distinct languages. In modern times, the Japanese language is the primary language of the islands, with the Okinawan Japanese dialect prevalently spoken. The outlying Daitō Islands were uninhabited until the Meiji period, when their development was started mainly by people from the Izu Islands south of Tokyo, with the people there speaking the Hachijō language.

Administratively, the islands are divided into Kagoshima Prefecture (specifically the islands administered by Kagoshima District, Kumage Subprefecture/District, and Ōshima Subprefecture/District) in the north and Okinawa Prefecture in the south, with the divide between the Amami and Okinawa Islands, with the Daitō Islands part of Okinawa Prefecture. The northern (Kagoshima) islands are collectively called the Satsunan Islands, while the southern part of the chain (Okinawa Prefecture) are called the Ryukyu Islands in Chinese.

Sibley-Monroe checklist 7

The Sibley-Monroe checklist was a landmark document in the study of birds. It drew on extensive DNA-DNA hybridisation studies to reassess the relationships between modern birds.

Wildlife of Japan

The wildlife of Japan includes its flora, fauna and natural habitats. The islands of Japan stretch a long distance from north to south and cover a wide range of climatic zones. This results in a high diversity of wildlife despite Japan's isolation from the mainland of Asia. In the north of the country, north of Blakiston's Line, there are many subarctic species which have colonized Japan from the north. In the south there are south-east Asian species, typical of tropical regions. Between these areas lies the temperate zone which shares many species with China and Korea. Japan also has many endemic species that are found nowhere else in the world.

Yanbaru

Yanbaru (山原) is the Okinawan and Kunigami name given to the forested northern part of Okinawa Island in Japan. Spanning the northern villages of Higashi, Kunigami, and Ōgimi, Yanbaru contains some of the last large surviving tracts of subtropical rainforest in Asia, with many endemic species of flora and fauna. Many southerners fled to the area for refuge during the Battle of Okinawa. In 2016, Yanbaru National Park was established and the area was included in a submission for inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List.Yanbaru currently contains the 7,500 ha US Jungle Warfare Training Centre at Camp Gonsalves. As of 2010 there were twenty-two helipads in the training area with a further seven planned within two of the best preserved areas. Issues relating to the location of helipads delayed the designation as a National Park. Threatened by clearcutting and the removal of undergrowth, various endemic species are facing an imminent extinction crisis. The US Marine Corps has noted that 'to continue to perform realistic military training activities, these habitats must be maintained.'

Yoshimaro Yamashina

Marquis Yoshimaro Yamashina (山階 芳麿, Yamashina Yoshimaro, July 5, 1900 – January 28, 1989) was a Japanese ornithologist. He was the founder of the Yamashina Institute for Ornithology.

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