[update:July 2005]

Photography by Syuichi Nishigaya, Keiichi Yoshida

Location: Terugasaki, Oiso town, Kanagawa prefecture, Japan

Names and links

  • Scientific: Treron Sieboldii
  • English: Japanese Green Pigeon, White-bellied Green-Pigeon, Japanese white-bellied green pigeon, Siebold's green pigeon, White-bellied wedge-tailed green pigeon
  • French: Colombar de Siebold
  • Spanish:Vinago japones
  • German:Sieboldgrüntaube
  • Japanese: Aobato ( pronounced like 'Ah-oh-ba-toe', meanings 'blue/green pigeon')
  • Vietnamese: cu xanh bung trang
  • Chanese: (????)
  • Links: WIKIOEDIA, Global Register of Migratory Species(GROMS), Species name

Where Can I See a Japanese Green Pigeon?

One of the best places to see the Japanese Green Pigeon is at Terugasaki beach, Oiso town, in central Japan. If you have never seen this beautiful bird, you should find a way to visit Oiso, Japan once in your lifetime.

How Can I Get to Terugasaki Beach? <MAP>

Take the JR Tokaido Line from Tokyo Station and get off at Oiso Station. Just head for the beach straight from the station; it's a ten-minute walk. If you come by car, take Route 134 from Hiratsuka toward Odawara, cross the Hanamizu River bridge, and keep going on the road to the left instead of getting onto the Seisho bypass on the right. I's a one-kilometer drive from the split.

 

Ok, Now I'm in Terugasaki, Where Do I See Japanese Green Pigeons?

You will probably find the information board of the Japanese Green Pigeon on the pier by the swimming pool of Oiso Port, where you can view the entire Terugasaki beach. This is the easiest place to see them. The Japanese Green Pigeons fly over the rocks along the seashore. The pigeons also come and perch on the trees in Oiso hills behind you.

TERUGASAKI beach (photo. KANEKO)

What Is the Best Season to See Japanese Green Pigeons?

The best season to see them is late summer from mid-May through late September. During this time, as many as 3,000 green pigeons will visit the rocks during the day. Observers once saw 440 pigeons completely cover the rocks in an umbrella of magnificent green.

 

What Time of Day Is Best?

The peak time is usually between seven and nine in the morning. This is also the time when the pigeons show off their best colors. However, if it rains in the morning, the pigeons sometimes arrive late, peaking around 10 a.m. Another good chance to see them is when they occasionally flock to the rocks in the afternoon, primarily from July to early September. Regardless, you can be sure to see a number of them anytime from dawn to sunset starting mid-May through late September, unless it is pouring rain or unusually windy.

How Can I Identify Japanese Green Pigeons?

First of all, Japanese Green Pigeons are beautiful birds. Their exquisite yellow-green plumage is sure to impress you. They flock toward the rocks by the seashore and drink from the sea. After having a drink of seawater, they come back to perch on the nearby trees, sometimes alighting just beyond you as you stand on the pier. If you have good eyesight, you may be able to notice the purple on the shoulders of the males.

 

How Can I Distinguish Aobato from Other Pigeons?

You have probably seen pigeons around Japan's temples, shrines, parks and train stations, poring over the ground in search for food; these are Dobato pigeons. You may also have seen the Eastern Turtle Dove, which can be seen in towns and residential areas as well as forest and fields. These doves are light purple-brown with scaly distinctive patterns on the wings. You're not likely to mistake either species for the Japanese Green Pigeon.

Three common pegions/doves in Japan

figure

(male)

English name
Japanese Green Pegion
Eastern Turtle Dove
Feral Pegion
Scientific name
Treron Sieboldii
Streptopelia Orientalis
Columbia livia var. domestica
Jananese name
AOBATO
KIJIBATO
DOBATO

 

Is It True That Japanese Green Pigeons Drink Seawater?

Yes, but no one knows why for sure. But it is only at this time of the year that the pigeons come to drink seawater, so it is presumably related to some deficiency in their diet, perhaps minerals they can only get from the seawater. Among the world's 300 plus species of pigeon, only the Japanese Green Pigeon is known to drink seawater. However, recent studies seem to indicate that the Black Wood Pigeon (Columba janthina) and Wood pigeon (Columba palumbus) share this remarkable behavior.

Where Do Japanese Green Pigeons Live?

We traced the pigeons and discovered that they live and breed in the beech forests of the Tanzawa mountains, 20-30 kilometers from Terugasaki, and come all the way to the ocean for the seawater. They can also be spotted along the mountain paths of Mt. Koma and the Shonandaira Heights, close to Terugasaki.

What About Their Songs?

The pigeons sing mysteriously, or ominously as some describe. They sound something like "oh-ah-wooh". The sound is not unlike that of a Japanese ambulance or perhaps the Shakuhachi bamboo flute. If you hear them deep in the mountains in the enveloping mist, the sound is quite mystical.

Isn't It Dangerous for Japanese Green Pigeons to Be Floating on The Sea?

The pigeons risk their lives to drink seawater. On days when the rolling waves are at their highest, some of the pigeons who come down to drink are battered and killed by the crashing waves. Typhoons traveling off the coast of Terugasaki bring beautiful weather and tragedy for some of these beautiful birds.

Japanese Green Pigeon's Favorite Beach is Designated a Natural Monument

Our research unveiled that Terugasaki is Japan's most popular place for Japanese Green Pigeons coming to drink seawater. In 1996, Kanagawa Prefecture designated the shores of Terugasaki a natural monument to preserve the unique spot chosen by the Japanese Green Pigeon.