Birdwatching in Tokyo: Ueno Pond

Ueno Park

Shinobazu-ike is a large pond of Ueno-park adjacent to Ueno Zoo in the centre of Tokyo. In the middle of the city it is a rather unexpected refuge for wintering birds. In summer season it is quiet. The water is a bit drab and dirty, perhaps due to a high density of birds, the food that people feed the birds and all the garbage one can possibly encounter in a park. Shinobazu-ike is a lotus pond. Birds can hide between the tall stems of the lotus leaves. In winter time the partly broken stems carrying brown leaves or seedboxes remain in the centre of the pond. The sight of all hundreds of pintails begging for food, while swimming or walking close to you is unbelievable. They turn out to be quite noisy on close range: "easy, easy, easy..."

Usually my visits are brief and hurried: "passing by" visits only. The list below just gives an impression of the sorts. One can encounter funny species: I have seen there a male (hybrid ?) Baikal Teal, a partially albino female pochard (known by the local homeless as the destroyer), a male Ring-necked Duck and a female Baer's Pochard.


A Brief visit December 21, 1995
Several thousands of ducks, mainly pintail, pochard, wigeon and tufted duck.
B Brief visit Februari 3, 1996
As previous visit A.
C Brief visit June 3, 1996.
At most 100 ducks present.
D Brief visit October 22, 1996.
Some 1000 ducks, mainly pintails
E Brief visit November 12, 1996.
Some 2000 ducks, mainly tufted ducks and pintail
F Brief visit Februari 8, 1997.
Some 3000 ducks, mainly pochards, tufted ducks and pintail
G Brief visit Februari 15, 1997.
One male Ring-necked duck, thanks to the information of Kieran Daly and Takashi Koike.
H Very brief visit Februari 28, 1997.
Ring-necked duck. Albino-head pochard: same one as in Feb 1996.
I Brief visit December 12, 1997
Again the Albino-head pochard! Mainly Pintails and Tufted ducks. Also many Black headed gulls.
J Brief visit December 27, 1997
Besides the Albino-head pochard, a male Ring-necked duck and a female Baer's Pochard there were mainly Pintails and Tufted ducks and a few wigeons, pochards, mallards and shovelers.
K Brief visit Januari 13, 1998

L Brief visit Januari 27, 1998

M Brief visit June 5, 1998

  1. Little grebe Podiceps ruficollis Podiceps ruficollis: A, C, F, M (plus young)
  2. Great Cormorant Phalacrococax carbo Kawa-u: A, B, C, E, F, G (breeding), H, I, J, K, L, M
    Visit L: a pair of mating birds. the usual yellow skin near bill was red. Female crown was black, male crown was whitish.
  3. Mallard Anas platyrhynchos, Ma-gamo: A, B, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L, M
  4. Spot-billed duck Anas poecilorhyncha, Karu-gamo: A, B, C, E, F, G, H, J, L, M
  5. Green-winged teal Anas crecca, Ko-gamo: A, B, F
  6. Baikal teal (x Pintail?) Anas formossa, Tomoe-gamo: B One male. Place: In the SE corner of the pond at three meter distance of the sidewalk. One week later it was still there, and photographed by Stephan Shuichi Haupt. It turned out to be ringed, so perhaps an escape bird from the zoo.
    Description: The general distant impression of the small teallike duck was darkish with two pairs of big dirty white spots on both sides of the bill. On close distance (4 meter) the yellow, dark green and black facial pattern as depicted in the field guide revealed itself. Crown of the head was darkgreen fluorescent, sometimes appearing dark purple. Underlining the crown was a white eyeline over and around the yellow spots and the green ear coverts: together these lines formed a white 'V' on the nape. The breast was chestnut colored with black dots, the side greyish. Under tail coverts were black. Between the grey flank and the black under tail coverts there was a clear vertical white line.
    However, the white line between the buf breast and the grey flank however was LACKING! (Neither was the white underlining of the yellow spots and the green ear coverts present, as visible in the guides or at this beautiful picture of another Baikal teal by Koike-san.)

    I did not see the wing-pattern, as the bird was swimming quietly only, and after some minutes swam into hiding between the died lotusplants which fill Ueno pond. The bird had no markings reminiscent of Wigeon, Teal or Pintail, I believed at first. However study of the photographs of Shuichi Haupt suggests a hybrid between Pintail and Baikal teal.

    Afterthought: the new book "Wild birds in Japan" contains a picture of (as the caption says) hybrid Baikal Teal x Pintail. The bird of the photo in the book is strikingly similar with the bird on Shuichi Haupt's photographs, including the detail of being ringed with an old metal ring on one leg... (whether or not it is the same leg, I don't know, not having seen the original negatives of both the photos of Shuichi Haupt and the photo in the book!?)

  7. Wigeon Anas penelope Hidori-gamo: A, B, C, F, G, H, I, J, K, L
  8. Northern Pintail Anas acuta Onaga : A, B, C, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L. M
  9. Northern Shoveler : A, B, E, F, G, H, I, J, K
  10. Pochard : A, B, C, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L
  11. Partial albino Pochard (?) : B, H, I, J, K
    It seems me the same bird on all visits. One homeless person told me that the bird is already since 7 years a winter visitor (this might imply that he is living as a homeless for at least 7 years in Ueno...). The nickname among the homeless for bird is the destroyer. I am not sure which species it is: perhaps a female pochard
  12. Baer's Pochard Aythya baeri Aka-hajiro: J one female.
    Description of the swimming duck between the Tufted ducks: Size in between Pochard and Tufted duck. Head: brownish black with lighter brown patches near bill (hard to see at distance) Dark eye. Bill: dark grey with a light greyish band near tip. Neck blackish brown. Breast dark brown. Mantle like female Tufted Duck. Flank however more brownish mottled and along the waterline more whitish between the middle of the duck and the back of its neck. Tail spread like a small fan and held above the water, in contrast to usual posture of the female tufted ducks. Neck was elegant long and relatively slender compared with the Tufted ducks.. Posture of neck sometimes reminding of gracefully curved neck of Mute swan. So far this seems to be a description fitting a usual femal Baer's pochard. However this individual had a partial white collar on the breast! In frontal view resembling a the colar of male Mallard with respect to position and width of collar. Behavior: It allowed itself to be fed by the homeless of Ueno-park. At quiet moments times it came within arm reach of the side of the pond. When a piece of bread was thrown towards the duck, it wrestled with the tufted ducks to get it, but unlike the tufted ducks it escaped the whirlpole of struggling ducks via a long dive to the quiet lotus beds.
    Conclusion: Female Baer's Pochard
  13. Ring-necked duck Aythya collaris Kubiwa-kinkuro: G, H J, K, L
    Visit G and H: Perfect male, according to other birdwatchers at the spot already present since a month present. Bill pattern rather striking. Brown band around neck, which is not always visible.
    Visit J and K: perhaps the same individual.
  14. Tufted duck Aythya ferina Hoshi-hajiro: A, B, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L
  15. Greater Scaup Aythya marila Suzu-gamo: L
    Visit L: Male.
  16. Smew Mergus albellus [Miko-aisa]: K (female)
  17. Slaty-backed gull Larus schitisagus [Ou-seguro-kamome]: G, L
    Visit L: pale yellow eye
  18. Herring gull Larus argentatus Seguro-kamome: L
  19. Black-headed Gull Larus ridibundus : A, E, F, G, H, I, J, K, L
  20. Black-tailed gull Larus crassirostris Umineko : C
  21. Little tern Sterna albifrons Ko-ajisashi : C
  22. Black-crowned night heron Nycticorax nycticorax Goi-sagi : A, G, K, L, M
  23. Little egret Egretta garzetta, Ko-sagi : A, D, L
  24. Gray heron Ao-sagi, Ardea cinerea : A, E
  25. Coot Fulica atra Ou-ban : B, C, G, J, K, L
  26. Common Gallinule Gallinula chloropus [Ban]: G, L
  27. Rufous turtle dove Streptopelia orientalis, Kiji-bato : A, H, J, L
  28. Bank Swallow Riparia riparia [Shoodo-tsubame]: M
  29. White wagtail Haku-sekirei, Motacilla alba : A, G
  30. Japanese wagtail Seguro-sekirei, Motacilla grandis : B,E
  31. Brown-eared bulbul Hypsipetes amaurotis, Hiyodori: A, B, C, E, F, G, L
  32. Dusky thrush Turdus naumanni, Tsugumi : A, B
  33. Great tit Parus major, Shijuu-kara : A, B, C, G, L, M
  34. Oriental greenfinch Kawarahiwa, Carduelis sinica : A
  35. Tree sparrow Suzume, Passer montanus : A, B, C, E, G, J, L, M
  36. Gray starling Sturnus cineraceus, Mukudori : A, B, C, E, L
  37. Azure winged magpie Onaga, Cyanopica cyana : B, M
  38. Carrion crow Corvus corone, Hashiboso-garasu : A, B, C, E, L
  39. Jungle crow Hashibuto-garasu, Corvus macrorhynchos : A, B, C, E, G, I, J, L, M
  1. Black rat: C, J, K
  2. Tortoise: C
    Back to Birds in Japan and Asia Last modified: June 6, 1998. Fer-Jan de Vries,