A Local Perspective on Life in Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

The Brown-Eared Bulbul ( HIYODORI, ヒヨドリ)- Might Be An Everyday Bird Here In Japan, But You Won’t Find It In Many Other Places (again)

Hiyodori -- Brown-eared bulbul

Hiyodori — the brown-eared bulbul – in summer

One of "my" bulbuls partaking of the fruit I put out for the birds on a snowy day (January 24, 2018)

One of “my” bulbuls partaking of the fruit I put out for the birds on a snowy day (February 8th, 2019)

By Avi Landau


Throughout the year all sorts of birds visit my house, or should I say my front yard, which is located at what was once the edge of Tsukuba’s  Konda Woods (now completely clear-cut). Some species hang around my neighborhood all year round, while others only stay for one season. Then there are those that just drop by for a little refueling and relaxation while on their annual migrations.




Of all these birds, some colorfully-plumed, some beautifully voiced, some, like the pheasant (Kiji) impressively large, or majestic, like the goshawk (O-Taka), I have come to LOVE MOST, a gray, drab looking, scruffy headed, screechy voiced rascal, a little smaller than a pigeon. Since at least the Heian Period (794-1192), the Japanese have called this bird the Hiyodori probably because they heard its cry as “HIYOH”), while in English it has come to be called the brown-eared bulbul (hypsipetes amaurotis).


The reason I have grown so fond of the Hiyodoris around my place is that I have actually developed a RELATIONSHIP with them, and though they sometimes do go off somewhere, sometimes for months out of the year, they always come back to my garden, greeting me early in the morning with their cry — which to my ears sounds more like GYAAA! They then fly around the house looking into the windows, calling me to throw out some fruit. And in a most dog-like manner, they faithfully fly to greet me, noticing me from hundreds of yards away, every time I come back home. Many people refer to these bulbuls as Avi’s Birds, and I have come to think of them that way myself.

Hiyodori will eat just about any fruit you put out for them (especially persimmon, apple, and mandarin orange ), and even drink juice from a glass. They also will suck the pollen out of your sazanqua or camellia bushes in late winter, and then from cherry blossoms in spring. They also like bread. Some of my neighbors are annoyed to find that all the nandina berries in their garden have disappeared in a single day (brown-eared bulbuls love red berries!). Unfortunately, in recent years they have also started to raid cabbage patches, and some farmers have started calling them pests – with some even calling for some sort of action to be taken (uh-oh).

It is interesting to note that these birds have changed their living habits in the past 30 years. Older farmers have told me that back when they were young, these hiyodori only came to residential areas in the winter, and apparently spent the rest of the year in the mountainous areas. In recent years tough, they have become a year-round, city and suburb bird.

And though they are quite plainly plumed and can be found commonly throughout Japan, short-term foreign residents in this country should take note of it and savor its presence, as this type of bulbul can only be found in the Japanese islands, the northern Philippines, Taiwan, and the Russian Far East.

As we enter the mating season I think that you will be hearing and seeing this bird just about everywhere in Tsukuba. Stop and take a look at it. If you put some fruit out, you just might make a new friend.

I fall down on my knees and cry..... for years I have been talling you about the birds, plants, animals and history of the Konda Woods - well now they are history...cut and bulldozed.... for some housing communities... don`t let them them tell you that Tsukuba is a "Green city". It once was... but week by week, day by day...

I fall down on my knees and cry….. for years I have been telling you about the birds, plants, animals and history of the Konda Woods – well now they are history…cut and bulldozed…. for some housing communities… don`t let them them tell you that Tsukuba is a “Green city”. It once was… but week by week, day by day…


  • Sulema says:

    Many thanks for the article.

  • Mamoru Shimizu says:

    I understand Hiyodori are very clever and friendly birds, I would like to have friends-hiyodori like you. I like their hair style resembling a little bit Wood-Stock,I was an enthusiastic fan of Wo-sama:him, I like his life style especially. I am going to prepare a chopstick-striken slice of apple which was an only leftefruit in my house now. I hope they like apples like Adam and Eve.

  • Victor C. Go says:

    Dear Avi,

    I enjoyed your daily article tremendously and sometimes forward them to my Japanese friends. I used to work for Takeda Yakuhin and was a frequent visitor to Japan during the 13 years I worked with the company. The history, customs and nature articles are of particular interest to me. Thanks so much.