Ospreys drive Okinawa woodpeckers from Takae; watchers warn

Ospreys drive Okinawa woodpeckers from Takae; watchers warn

October 29, 2014 Ryukyu Shimpo

On October 28, at Takae Elementary and Junior High School in Higashi, a dead Okinawa woodpecker or Noguchigera designated as a special national treasure was found. This bird presumably bumped into a window and died. Four dead Okinawa woodpeckers, including this bird, were found within and near the school this year.

According to Tamotsu Nakamura, a noguchigera bird protection warden of Higashi-son who is familiar with the Okinawa woodpecker’s livelihood, there are very few cases where Okinawa woodpeckers have hit window glass and died. He said, “There is no record of four birds dying in a year. This is an unusual situation.” He speculates that major changes are taking place in the Okinawa woodpecker’s habitat. “Low-altitude flights of the U.S. military aircraft, including MV-22 Ospreys, presumably affected the habitat of the birds,” he said.

In February, a dead Okinawa woodpecker was found at a house near the school. On August 5 and 13, two dead woodpeckers were found in the school. All the woodpeckers possibly died in collisions with the windows of the house or classrooms. The school has put photographs of raptors on the windows of classrooms in order to scare away the birds, which could face risk of extinction. Despite such measures, the bird collision on the window took place on October 28. The dead Okinawa woodpecker is a 30.5 cm long male adult.

Chousei Tamaki, a leader of an environmental NGO that is researching wild animals such as noguchigera, said, “It’s unusual. In the season when it is becoming cold, Okinawa woodpeckers live in the back of the valley and forest. Something took place in the back of the forest to disrupt the bird’s living environment. There is also the possibility of influence from the helipad construction.”

Noguchigera bird protection warden Nakamura has researched Okinawa woodpeckers for about 40 years while working at the Higashi municipal office. He stressed, “The Okinawa woodpecker is a special national treasure. We should think about this issue more seriously because this is critical not only to Okinawa but also to the country.”

(English translation by T&CT)

An Okinawa wood pecker that presumably hit a window and died at Takae Elementary and Junior High School in Higashi on October 28.

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