Seeing the Ryukyu Robin of Okinawa’s Main Island and Amami Oshima

There are two subspecies of the Ryukyu Robin (Akahige in Japanese):
Larvivora komadori komadori which inhabits Amami Oshima Island, and Larvivora komadori namiyei which is found on the main island of Okinawa. These are two species that are considered a subspecies at the moment, but I heard that an announcement to make them two separate species will occur in the near future.
This is a report about a 5 day, 4 night tour conducted in early April.

Day 1   Starts from the main island of Okinawa. First we stop by the Triangle Pond (Sankaku-ike) , a famous birding spot. The usual Eurasian spoonbill (Herasagi) was seen amongst the flock of the usual flock of Black-faced spoonbills (Kurotsura herasagi).

Black-faced spoonbill  Photography by Hiroshi KAWADA

We saw Black-winged Stilts (Seitaka shigi) here and there, and Greenshanks (Aoashi shigi) flying by.  In the distance, Temminick’s sStint (Ojiro tounen) and a Long-toed Stint (Hibari shigi) are present. On the power lines, the Light-vented Bulbul (Shirogashira) and the Jungle Crow (Ryukyu hashibuto garasu, Corvus macrorhynchos connectens) were calling loudly.

From the Triangle Pond, we headed north to the Yanbaru Area. We waited for the Ryukyu robin (Akahige, Larvivora komadori namiyei) and the Okinawa rail (Yanbaru kuina). We could hear the Ashy minivet (Ryukyu sanshoukui,Pericrocotus divaricatus tegimae), and the Warbling white-eye (Ryukyu mejiro, Zosterops japonicus loochooensis), but we did not hear a sound from the target species. The day was completed after confirming the call of the Yanbaru Rail.


Day 2. A chilly morning, for Okinawa. We set out in the early morning, before sunrise, to see the Yanbaru Rail. We were able to see two rails crossing the road, as well as 4 Ryukyu wild boar.
After breakfast, we went to Akahige Point. Before I could see anything else, an Okinawa woodpecker (Noguchigera) flew to the dead tree right in front of us! We were so lucky!  It seems like they were nest building, and we could hear the knocking sounds “kon-kon, kon-kon” coming from inside the hole…In order to prevent disturbing them, we kept our distance and observation time short.

Okinawa woodpecker Photography by Yuji TSUKAMOTO

The Ryukyu robin was the main attraction, but it didn’t make an appearance for a while. But there was one participant saw a male and female, and even captured some photos of it bathing.

Ryukyu Robin, Larvivora komadori namiyei (male) Photography by Hiroshi KAWADA
Bathing Larvivora komadori namiyei (male) Photography by Hiroshi KAWADA

After eating lunch, we went to photograph the Pacific swallow (Ryukyu tsubame), perched along the roadside. Other tourists who saw the scene of us gathered around asking “What is that?” After I answered them, they pulled out their cell phones also and started to snap photos as well! (Lol).

Pacific swallow  Photography by Hiroshi KAWADA

After that, we went to the nearby rice field in search of shorebirds and other waders. Unfortunately, the area had changed so much, that it no longer seemed like a place for the shorebirds to hang out.

In the morning, some people had missed the Red-winged woodpecker and Okinawa woodpecker, so we headed back to that point. Sadly, however, we could not see much and ended up running out of daylight.


Day 3    This is the last day of the tour on the main island of Okinawa. However, we did not have much time, so we started from before dawn to look again for the Okinawa Rail. We waited in a certain spot for a long time, but they did not appear there. I did, however see some on the road several times.

After breakfast, we only had one hour. At Akahige Point, we managed to see one individual male. We also got a good look at the Ashy minivet (Ryukyu sanshoukui, Pericrocotus divaricatus tegimae.

Ryukyu Robin Komadori komadori namiyei (male) Photography by Kayo TSUKAMOTO
Ashy Minivet Pericrocotus divaricatus tegimae   Photography by Hiroshi KAWADA

We arrived at Naha Airport to head to Amami Oshima. Although it was a little chilly in Yanbaru, it was so hot in Naha! Our plane took off heading to Amami Oshima.

It was windy in Amami Oshima, so we gave up on birdwatching along the coast, and went for a walk through the forest sanctuary instead. While we didn’t have much time there, and the sky looked suspicious as well, we got to see the White-backed Woodpecker (Ooaka gera, Dendrocopos leucotos owstoni).  And we were really hoping to see a  White’s Thrush subspecies, the Amami Thrush (Ootoratsugumi, Zoothera dauma major). However all we saw was the Amami Jay (Rurikakesu), and then we were out of time.

After checking into the hotel and we had finished our dinner, we set out for a nightwalk. Accompanied by a local guide, we drove along the forested roads. As a result, we could see many Amami woodcocks (Amami Yamashigi) and the Amami Rabbits (Amami Kurousagi). Also, we could see endemic species such as the Amami Woodcock, Amami Rabbit, Amami Ishikawa’s frog (Amami Ishikawa gaeru), Okinawa pit viper (Himehabu), and the Amami spiny rat (Amami togenezumi),making it a very special night.

Amami Woodcock Photography by Hiroshi KAWADA
Amami Rabbit Photography by Yuji TSUKAMOTO
Amami Ishikawa’s frog Photography by Kayo TSUKAMOTO
Ryukyu scops owl Photography by Hiroshi KAWADA


Day 4   We were a bit worried about the weather, but we set out in search of Amami thrush, Amami jay, and other thrushes. Unfortunately, we had a little rain, on and off. We broke the participants up into two search groups, one for searching for the Ryukyu robin, and one searching for the Amami thrush. The Ryukyu robin group could end up seeing a few. The Ryukyu thrush group, could see one, but no one could catch a photo of it.
Then, after lunch, we split up into two groups again, and we were all able to see the target species and get photos of them both, fortunately. We also had some good opportunities to photograph the Ryukyu jay.

Ryukyu Robin Larvivora komadori komadori Male)Photography by Yuji TSUKAMOTO
Ryukyu Robin Larvivora komadori komadori (Female)Photography by Kayo TSUKAMOTO
Amami Thrush Photography by Hiroshi KAWADA
Amami Jay   Photography by Yuji TSUKAMOTO


Day 5    Last day of the tour. The weather forecast is not looking good. Unfortunately it looks like rain until the end of the tour.

First, we set off before dawn to listen to the calls of the Ryukyu thrush. On the way, we saw an Amami woodcock and heard the calls of a Ryukyu scops owl. As we parked the car, we had a light rain, but we could hear the calls of the Ryukyu thrush.

After breakfast, we didn’t have much time. But it would have been nice just to see the White-backed woodpecker (Austin Ooakagera), so we searched for it on the way to the airport, but we could not spot it. Finally, we went to a rice paddy, where some migratory birds, might be around. Despite the rain, we were able to see the White-Breasted Waterhen (Shirohara kuina) and the White Wagtail (Houjiro hakusekirei, Motacilla alba leucopsis), the Black-winged Stilt (Seitaka shigi) and other species.

White-Breasted Waterhen Photography by Hiroshi KAWADA
White Wagtail Motacilla alba leucopsis Photography by Hiroshi KAWADA

This tour was a hyper-focused tour just for the hardcore birders, with the aim of seeing both subspecies of the Ryukyu robin on the main island of Okinawa and on Amami Oshima, and I can say it was a success. I wish to thank all the participants, who made the most of their precious time, over the course of 5 days, to intensely help search for birds, from early morning until late at night.

Text : Kenji YANAGAWA – Bird concierge
Photos are courtesy of all the participants of the tour

Observed: Beginning of April, 2023, Okinawa main island, and Amami Oshima

*Contact  us, Saiyu Travel for more information about wildlife and bird watching in Okinawa & Amami Oshima. We can make various arrangements for your trip.

*Youtube : Wildlife of Japan

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Herping Okinawa, Reptiles and Amphibians in Japan

This is a summary of the wild creatures you might encounter while herping in Okinawa.

The Japanese cave gecko (Goniurosaurus kuroiwae, in Japanese:クロイワトカゲモドキ Kuroiwa tokagemodoki) is endemic to Japan. They have primitive characteristics: such as a lack of scales on their fingers, so they cannot stick to or climb walls; they have eyelids, so they can blink; etc. They come in a variety of colors and patterns, depending on which region and on which island they are found. This is the Goniurosaurus kuroiwae kuroiwae, which is the standard subspecies among the different varieties. It features a prominent red eye with banded patterning on its body.

Japanese cave gecko
Japanese cave gecko
Japanese cave gecko

The Kerama Cave Gecko (Goniurosaurus kuroiwae sengokui, in Jp: ケラマトカゲモドキ  Kerama tokagemodoki), a subspecies of the Kuroiwa cave gecko, can only found on a few islands, located two hours by ferry, from the main island of Okinawa. It has a striking orange body, which is noticeable as a difference in the juveniles, right from birth.

Kerama Cave Gecko
Kerama Cave Gecko
Kerama Cave Gecko

Other gecko species live in Okinawa have various subspecies with different color patterns, depending on the island and the region where they can be found.

The Japanese cave gecko Goniurosaurus kuroiwae kuroiwae ( in Japanese:クロイワトカゲモドキ沖縄本島亜種  Kuroiwa tokagemodoki Okinawa Mainland Subspecies) has red eyes and a striped pattern indicative of the cave geckos. Lives on the southern part of the main island of Okinawa.

Japanese cave gecko :Okinawa Mainland Subspecies
Japanese cave gecko :Okinawa Mainland Subspecies

The Kume Cave Gecko Goniurosaurus kuroiwae yamashinae (in Jp: クメトカゲモドキ Kume tokagemodoki) has yellow eyes and a yellow banded coloration.

Kume Cave Gecko

In Okinawa Prefecture, there is a golden colored pit viper that is endemic to the Ryuku Islands, in Japanese called the Habu(ハブ)  Protobothrops flavoviridis . Its venom is not very poisonous, but the full length can be rather large at over 2 meters long and solenoglyphous, the fangs for injecting the venom is 1.5 cm. The silver color variation is called a ‘Gin Habu’ meaning ‘Silver Habu’ which is lacking the yellow pigment that is found in the typical Habu.


Additionally, there is an endemic Viper in Japanese called the ‘Hime Habu(ヒメハブ)’ (Ovophis okinavensis) which inhabits the same area. Literally, the name means “small habu,” however, even though it belongs to the same family as the Habu, it is a different genus. Frogs being their favorite prey, they can often be observed at the waterside hunting for frogs that are distracted and trying to breed. They stay active even in the winter when other snakes are usually less active.

Hime Habu
Hime Habu
Hime Habu

Moreover, in the Yaeyama Island Chain, which are islands located south of the main island of Okinawa, the endemic Sakishima-Habu(サキシマハブ) Protobothrops elegans can be found. In the Sakishima Islands during the summer, one might come across this snake as a given, but you might see an orangish colored snake, that is the same species, but it has lost its dark color. This rare color variation is about one in every 10 snakes. It is a very beautiful snake.


Also, on the main island of Okinawa, there is an extra large snake known as the Ryukyu odd-tooth snake (Lycodon semicarinatus) or in Japanese ‘Akamata(アカマタ),’ which may have a total length exceeding 2 meters. With a voracious appetite, it eats anything including frogs, lizards, mice, and other snakes. It is an endemic species of Japan.

Ryukyu odd-tooth snake
Ryukyu odd-tooth snake

Okinawa’s frogs are also famous.

The most famous frog is the endemic Ishikawa’s Frog (Odorrana ishikawae) or in Japanese ‘Okinawa Ishikawa gaeru(オキナワイシカワガエル).’ With a total length of more than 10 cm it is a relatively large species, however, coming across it in the forest may be difficult because it is usually dispersed in the mountains. In addition, relatively many blue frogs, lacking the yellow pigment have been found, resulting in many people herping in the Yambaru region in search of blue Ishikawa frogs.

Ishikawa’s Frog
Ishikawa’s Frog

Also, in the Yambaru forest, there is a high probability to be able to observe the endemic Ryukyu Tip-nosed Frog (in Jp: Hanasakigaeru(ハナサキガエル). Because they have very long legs, they can quickly evade you, making it quite difficult to photograph. It is very rare, but according to some, the blue variation of these frogs has been found there as well.

Ryukyu Tip-nosed Frog
Ryukyu Tip-nosed Frog

Then, there is the endemic Anderson’s Crocodile Newt  Echinotriton andersoni, in Japanese Iboimori(イボイモリ), which lives like a reptile. Even though they are amphibians, they aren’t found in or near water, and have strange adaptations like laying their eggs on land.

Anderson’s Crocodile Newt
Anderson’s Crocodile Newt

There are many other beautiful amphibians and reptiles that can be found here, so we hope you can try herping in Okinawa.


Photo & text : Wataru HIMENO(  Instagram “Herping Tonight” )

Please contact us,  Saiyu Travel Japan  for Herping in Japan.

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(Video) It’s Bigeye Trevally Season! Aguni Island

粟国島 ギンガメトルネード AGUNI DIVE IN JAPAN

In May, I visited the Aguni Islands for the bigeye trevally season. We not only got to see schools of bigeye<GINGAME-AJI> making a tornado of fish, we also got to see the giant trevally <ROUNIN-AJI>as well as school of dogtooth tuna<ISO-MAGURO>. There were breeding colored bigeye trevally and the sea was bursting full of life!


Image & text : Mariko SAWADA
Observation: May 2021, Aguni Island, Okinawa

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(Video) Hammerhead Sharks of the Yonaguni Island

与那国ハンマー Yonaguni Hammerhead sharks Diving at Yonaguni Island (2)

Japan’s westernmost island is the Yonaguni Island. It is said that on a good visibility day in the summertime, you can see all the way to Taiwan. One of the things that make Yonaguni famous, are the schools of Hammerhead Sharks that can be observed here while diving.

We visited  early April, which is the end of the hammerhead season, so we thought it would be difficult to encounter them, but we were able to see many schools multiple times.

Yonaguni Island’s Hammerhead Sharks 与那国島のハンマーヘッドシャーク

与那国ハンマー Yonaguni Hammerhead sharks Diving at Yonaguni Island (1)

An unexpected encounter with a large school of hammerheads.

与那国ハンマー Yonaguni Hammerhead sharks Diving at Yonaguni Island (4)

The hammerhead sharks at Yonaguni Island are all females and are generally calm and do not bite. Usually, they are found swimming at a depth of 35m to 40m, but this time we could encounter them at a relatively shallow depth of 25m to 30m.

与那国ハンマー Yonaguni Hammerhead sharks Diving at Yonaguni Island (3)

Of course, while diving, we also visited the ‘Yonaguni Underwater Monument.’What looks like a terrace cut at right angles, looks man-made, but the natural formation is not actually a ruin. It is found in a spot that has a fast moving tide.

与那国合宿 (4)

We stayed at Guesthouse FIESTA, where the owner prepared a wonderful BBQ for us.

与那国合宿 (3)

The Yonaguni marlin are also famous. There are also many fishing boats that mainly target the marlin. We could get some fresh sashimi from the local Kinjo Tackel Shop. During our stay, we could also enjoy the fresh greater amberjack and green jobfish

与那国合宿 (2)

We also had some locally produced ‘Island tofu (Shima tofu)’ cold and the last of the seasonal ‘Island Coriander/cilantro (shima pakuchii).’

与那国合宿 (1)

This baby goat isn’t on the menu! This is the 2-month old goat of the Dive Shop Marlin, and it has been guaranteed the lucky designation as a lifelong pet.

Image & Text: Mariko SAWADA
Observation: Apr 2021, Yonaguni Island, Okinawa
Special Thanks: Yonaguni Diving Service MARLIN, Guesthouse FIESTA

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