Friday 27 April 2018

Across the fields... an odd Japanese Skylark

While looking for migrant snipe the other day there were a handful of other birds of interest, this lark in particular caught my eye.

The "whoa!" moment was unfortunately all too brief, picking the bird up a couple of fields ahead because of its overall paleness. It's more likely that any skylark will remain unseen until it flies at close range so spotting it that far ahead was noteworthy in itself. I was initially hoping for a Greater shore-toed Lark, this is as good a season as any to find one in Japan and it would have been a Kyoto tick for me. Greater Short-toed always look outstandingly pale compared to skylarks and thus superficially similar to this bird before closer inspection.

Once I got closer it was obviously a Japanese Skylark but a very different looking bird to the norm. This could be just an unusually faded individual, though I don't recall ever seeing one like this, but I suspect some form of colour aberration is the cause of this appearance as fading alone would be unlikely to result in all these features.

First a couple of shots of a typical Japanese Skylark taken a month ago. Here the bird was singing as it walked feeding across the short roadside grass. Unlike 'normal' Eurasian Skylark races the birds here frequently sing from the ground or prominent perches.

These are a few images of the recent odd looking bird.

And here is a spring Greater Short-toed Lark, one of a party I saw two years ago.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Hi Neal!

    My name is Adam Dhalla (, a young birder from Vancouver, Canada and I’ve been following your (fantastic) blog for at least two years now! Every so often I visit Japan to see my family, and obviously, I always do some birding every time I go! I’ve been there a few times now and always in the summer because it works out the best, but from what I’ve learned is that summer isn’t the best time to go birding in Japan, haha. Nevertheless, I would still like to get as many birds as possible in the time I’m in Japan. I will be in Kyoto for most of the trip, but I will be briefly visiting Kobe for one night as well and have access to Osaka for day trips. I’ll have plenty of time since I will be here for two weeks. We won’t have access to a car and will be depending on public transport. We have a few target birds but I bet most won’t be to reasonable! Mostly looking for buntings, shorebirds, flycatchers, snipes and ducks (and maybe even a Japanese Paradise-Flycatcher!!) but basically anything I haven’t seen is a win! Last time I went we mostly focused on mountains which seemed to be the best for birds in the summer as it is cooler (?) and got species such as Eurasian Treecreeper, Ashy Minivet, Blue Rock Thrush, Narcissus Flycatcher, Blue and White Flycatcher, Northern Boobook and other birds in the lowlands such as Japanese and White Wagtail, Varied, Long-tailed and Great Tits, Striated Heron and a few others although I did not have a great camera at that time so seeing them again would be great as well! So what do you think are the best hotspots and any other tips? Thanks so much for any help! You can reach me at