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A photo of a Japanese Bush Warbler (Horornis diphone)
Japanese Bush Warbler

Japanese Bush Warbler

Horornis diphone

The Japanese bush warbler, or Horornis diphone, is a modestly adorned bird with an olive brown plumage on its upper parts, transitioning to duskier hues below. A pale eyebrow streak graces its face, and its beak, slightly upturned, gives the impression of a gentle smile. This avian species measures an average of 15.5 centimeters in length.

Distribution and Habitat

This bird is a familiar sight across Japan, save for Hokkaidō, and is also found in the northern Philippines. During the summer months, it extends its range to include Hokkaidō, Manchuria, Korea, and central China, while in winter, it retreats to the warmer climes of southern China and Taiwan. The species has been introduced to the Hawaiian Islands, where it has successfully established itself. The Japanese bush warbler shows a preference for bamboo thickets and black pine trees in hilly to mountainous regions during the summer, and seeks shelter at lower elevations in the winter.

Behaviour

The Japanese bush warbler is more often heard than seen, its presence revealed by its distinctive breeding song that heralds the arrival of spring in Japan. The bird's propensity for singing has made it a popular cage bird, and its call is considered by the Japanese as a harbinger of springtime, alongside the return of the barn swallow.

Song & Calls

The Japanese bush warbler's song is a celebrated sound of the spring, a melodious "hoohokekyo" that young birds learn to perfect over time by mimicking their neighbors. This song is a cultural icon, often featured in traditional Japanese poetry and associated with the ume blossom.

Relationship to Humans

The Japanese bush warbler holds a cherished place in Japanese culture. It is a favored motif in poetry, a herald of spring in haiku, and even lends its name to traditional sweets and architectural features. The bird's droppings, containing a skin-beneficial enzyme, have been used for cosmetic purposes, and its chirping inspired the design of "nightingale floors" intended to alert occupants of intruders.

Conservation status

The Japanese bush warbler is currently classified as Least Concern by the IUCN, indicating that it does not face any immediate threat of extinction in the wild.

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