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Let’s Go See the Yanbaru Kuina!
post : 2019.06.27 06:00
The rainy season on Okinawa has more to offer and do than you think, and one of them is to visit various animals that live on the island. Take, for example, the Yanbaru Kuina. Yabaru Kuina or the Okinawa rail are found only in the northern region of Okinawa Island known as Yanbaru. It’s an indigenous species of water rails, with long, reddish beaks, and black and white stripes from its chest to stomach. The most notable characteristic is that their wings are short, and they are flightless birds.
That means, if you’re driving along the roads in the Yanbaru area, and a Yanbaru Kuina happens to suddenly jump out on to the road from the forests, they can’t fly away to avoid being hit. So please, when you’re driving in the northern region of Okinawa, watch out for these precious fowls, as they’re presently listed in the Japanese Ministry of the Environment’s Red List.
They’re often seen in the mornings on or along the main national roads in Kunigami Village, as they come out of the forests to feed on the worms and insects that crawl out on to the road. It’s highly recommended to drive slowly along these roads (especially from the northern tip of the island to its eastern coast, as well as on the mountain roads that cut across the island, east and west). Yanbaru Kuina will quickly run away when they see people, so the best way to view them is to park your car at the side of a road where you can command a good view, and remain in the car to observe them. Of course, if you’re driving and speed up to see them, they’ll run. If you want to photograph them, since you can’t go near them, I recommend using a telephoto lens (about 70mm to 300mm).
Photo above shows a pair of Yanbaru Kuina. Since it’s the mating season for these birds, they’re quite active. May is also the month of Bird Week, so it may be a good time to go and appreciate these special birds. Since we’re visitors to their habitats, as long as we don’t forget our manners and keep a comfortable distance for them, they may make an appearance for you. When you are fortunate to come across these wild Yanbaru Kuina, you’ll surely be moved by their adorable appearance.
Okinawa CLIP photo writer, Hiroshi Kuwamura