2014

Birds of Korea: In the Fields

Beginning with English ornithologist Henry Baker Tristram’s (1822 – 1906) presentation of 8 species of birds of Korea at the 1885 Exposition Internationale d’Anvers held in Antwerp, Belgium, approximately 394 species of birds have been discovered, recorded and become known to the public. Among these, there are 57 residential species, 116 winter visitors, 103 passange migrants, 64 summer visitors, 53 vagrants, and 1 extinct species.  While Korea’s rapid industrialization and population growth since the 1960s have destroyed many of the natural habitats of these birds, many species are still easily visible in nearby surroundings. In this blog, I would like to introduce you to some of Korea’s 57 residential species that dwell in urban and rural areas, agricultural fields, and in nearby woods. If you have visited Korea, you probably have encountered many of them.

1)      Tree Sparrow (참새)Image

Perhaps the most visible species in Korea, the Tree Sparrow can be found in empty fields, and residential districts of urban and rural areas. It builds its nest under the eaves and lays 5-7 eggs. While its main source of food during the mating season is insects, once the mating season ends, it eats grain and plant seeds. Its body length is approximately 14.5cm.Its head is dark brown while its back is spotted brown. Its chin and cheeks are black, and the chest and stomach are shaded white.

2)      Oriental Greenfinch (방울새)Oriental Greenfinch 1

A species that inhabits throughout the Korean peninsula, the Oriental Greenfinch is distinct for its yellow mark on the wings. From its head down to its back, the feathers are grayish brown, while its chest and stomach arereddish brown. It usually lives near the rice fields orin the woods near the coast. Similar to the Tree Sparrow, it mainly feeds on insects during the mating season but returns to grain and plant seeds once the mating season ends. At 14.5cm in length, it can be found more easily in the coastal area than inlands.

3)      Yellow-throated Bunting (노랑턱멧새)

Inhabiting primarily the central region of the Korean peninsula, the Yellow-throated Bunting is approximately 15.5cm in length with distinct gender-based characteristics. The male is easily recognizable for its yellow headand black crown. Its back is brown and spotted with black dots; its chest is black but the stomach is snowy white. The female, on the other hand, does not have a yellow head. Instead, the female has a reddish brown head, no crown, and a light brown chin and chest. The Yellow-throated Bunting lives near the hills or in the plains where agricultural lands provide ample sources of food.

Yellow-throated Bunting 1

4)      Daurian Redstart (딱새)

Another species whose males and females can easily be distinguished, the Daurian Redstart is approximately 14cm in length and lives high up in the mountains. It builds its nest underneath fallen trees or in between rocks, and lays 5 to 7 eggs. It eats a mixture of nuts, berries and insects. The vertical movement of its tail is its key distinctive feature.

The male Daurian Redstart has light grayish feather on its forehead and its upper back, but its lower back and chin are black. The female Daurain Redstart, on the other hand, has an overall light brown plumage with a slight yellow shade underneath its chin.

Daurian Redstart maleDaurian Redstart female

5)      Siberian Meadow Bunting (멧새)

Most visible in the hillside, the Siberian Meadow Bunting is distinctive for the white and black streaks on its cheeks. At 16.5cm in length, its back is chestnut brown with black spots, while its stomach and chin are shaded white. It builds its nests between tree branches and lays 4 to 6 eggs. For its food, it feeds on insects, plant seeds, nuts and berries.

Siberian Meadow Bunting

6)      Bull-headed Shrike (때까치)Bull-headed shrike

The most abundant of the shrike family in the Korean peninsula, the Bull-headed Shrike is easily noticeable because of its reddish front and sides and a black band around its eyes. The female, unlike the male, has a black, wavy pattern on its front along with a stream of vertically aligned brown lines on its dark brown back. This species lives in the shrubs of the plains. It builds its nest either high up in pine trees or in the bushes, and lays 4 to 6 eggs. At 20cm in length, it can feed on larger sources of food such as frogs and insects. In order to maintain its balance, it rotates its tail in circles.

7)      Ring-necked Pheasant ()

The Ring-necked Pheasant is a colourful mosaic. At 80cm in length, the head is copper green, the chin black; around the neck sits a white band, around the eyes a red mask; the chest is golden red, the middle of the stomach is dark gray, the sides, however, are orange. Living near parks, agricultural fields, hills, and forests, it lays 6 to 10 eggs and feeds on grasshopper, ants and other insects.

Ring-necked Pheasant

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