The national bird of Japan is the green pheasant, named ‘kiji’ in Japanese. It was declared the National Bird in 1947. The kiji has been featured in many legends, mythology, poetry, and paintings. What is the reason for the pheasant to be Japan’s national bird?
Why is the Pheasant Japan’s National Bird?
It has been observed that green pheasants are particularly sensitive to earthquakes that go unnoticed by humans. We can’t feel the smaller ones ourselves, and this way they alert people to impending tremors. The pheasant may have been responsible for saving many lives in the past when seismometers weren’t invented yet.
As a native bird, the kiji appears in many literary works. For example, it is one of Momotaro’s companions in one of Japan’s most famous stories. It also features in pictorial works and even on the back of the old 10,000 yen bills, since it is a protagonist.
Kiji in the Wild
The national bird of Japan, if male, has a green crown, a blue throat, and a purple violet collar. Its mantle is green with small stripes at the bottom, a greenback, dyed in olive or light gray and dark olive colors. The bird has a black and pink trim on the edges.
If the bird is female, it does not have a color as bright as the male. So she can hide easily while caring for her chicks. The dark part of the mantle feathers is black and extends to the narrow and pale brown border, and has a green glow near the tip. The Kiji is endemic to Japan, except for the island of Hokkaido. Pheasants in a natural state are restless and cautious and tend to remain rather wild in captivity. They startle easily and often hide or seek refuge in the thick vegetation or in the bushes where they also usually sleep.
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