Rearing Chicks in Northern Europe
'Through the Lens', Fujingaho Magazine, April 2017
Photos and text: Her Imperial Highness Princess Takamado
English Translation: Asia Club, WBSJ Volunteer Group (TAKEUCHI Fumie and KASE Tomoko)
In winter, various kinds of wild birds come to Japan from Siberian region of Russia. Above all, swans and geese have been taken up in poems, folk tales and pictures as winter’s messengers since early times.
Winter birds return to their breeding areas such as Siberia in spring; that’s why we don’t see them with their lovely chicks in Japan. Then this time I’d like to show you some photos of the barnacle geese, greylag geese and tufted ducks that I met in Northern Europe. Since chick-rearing parent birds are more alert than usual and take every action looking around, there seems to be something tense about their photos. The chicks of geese or ducks are precocial. When hatched, they are covered with fluffy down and with their eyes open, so that they can leave the nest earlier. In order to survive, they need to eat a lot of nutritious food especially during the first several weeks. Both the goose parents rear their chicks together, but in most species of ducks, particularly the ones whose males wear colorful breeding plumage and are liable to be targeted by predators, the mother ducks brood eggs and rear their chicks alone.
By the way, some readers might not think that the duck in this photo looks like a female tufted duck. At first glance I also thought it as a crossbred, but the duck specialists whom I consulted many times asserted that it was nothing but a tufted duck. Then, now I consider it as a kind of western looks due to their individual differences.
We can watch five types of wild birds in Japan; "resident birds" staying in Japan throughout the year, "winter migrant birds" visiting Japan only in winter, "summer migrant birds" only in summer, "passage migrant birds" passing across Japan on their trips in spring and autumn, and "vagrant birds" that are not supposed to be in Japan normally. It makes me happy to know that Japan has a climate where those birds can stay despite their different habitat preferences and various needs. Of course far more species of birds inhabit some countries like Brazil than Japan, while in other countries there can be few birds in some seasons. Considering this fact, it is so lucky that we have all year the birds to welcome back or to send off expecting to meet again next year.
Flying to Japan all the way from distant Siberian region of Russia must be extremely tough for them. Let’s welcome with hospitality the birds that reach our country overcoming various challenges. When you see a bird family including one or sometimes a few immatures like teenagers, please applaud them saying "You made it!"