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  • Writer's picturePhillip Radcliffe

The Shima Enaga Bird

Updated: Jan 13, 2023

(Japanese translation below)

By Naoka Kawakami

The Shima Enaga is a bird of the sparrow family, which only lives in Hokkaido. The body length is about 10 to 14 cm, the weight is about 10 g, and it is smaller than a typical sparrow. It is the smallest bird in Japan. In winter, air accumulates on the feathers to withstand the cold, so it looks round like a pure white snowman. The nickname "Snow Fairy" comes from this figure. However, in the summer when the temperature is high, there is no need to puff up its body, so the body line is slim. The feathers are slightly brownish and smaller than in winter.

The Shima Enaga can be observed throughout Hokkaido. If you want to observe the Shima Enaga, it is recommended to look during the middle of winter from December to February. However, you can't see them often in winter in frigid places like Abashiri. The staple foods of the Shima Enaga are sap, small tree nuts, and insects. Therefore, from early spring to autumn, they are often found in forests where nuts and insects are abundant.

On the other hand, during the winter when nuts and insects are not available, they often frequent villages for sap from trees that line the streets. Contrary to its cute appearance, it has an aggressive side. It forms a group of about 5 to 10 birds, and always fights with adjacent birds to expand their territory. This behavior becomes particularly intense during the breeding season. The style of attack is by striking the body of other birds while flying in the air. When there is an intruder, they may chase it persistently and attack it with their feet while flying.

Since the Shima Enaga is a bird that only lives in Hokkaido, it is used as a motif at various shops and shrines. The image of the Shima Enaga bird is also popular in other prefectures, and there are hotels with the motif of the Shima Enaga. For example, you can buy fortunes and amulets in the shape of the Shima Enaga at Obihiro Shrine. In addition, there is a cafe in New Chitose where you can watch birds, including the Shima Enaga. There is Shima Enaga ice cream on the menu of the cafe, and it's so popular that people line up for it every day.


川上 実花






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