It is widely recognized that the similarities in appearance between the Crane, particularly Red-crowned Crane Grus japonensis, and the Oriental Stork Ciconia boyciana, has previously led to confusion as to their accurate identification. However, the actual situation regarding this confusion has not been studied, and it is unclear how much knowledge people in the past had about both species or whether they were able to tell the two species apart. This paper seeks to clarify the actual situation around Crane and Oriental Stork identification, drawing extensively upon natural historical materials among historical documents of the Edo period. Examination of these documents revealed that the morphology and ecology of both species were accurately understood, and that the recorded information is also accurate even if viewed in the modern period. The fact that these two birds belong to different species is recognized and elaborated due to their differences in medicinal use and food processing, for instance. Natural historical documents from the Edo period indicate the Crane and Oriental Stork were correctly identified as different species, and that the possibility of them being confused was low.
Japanese names are a useful tool for Japanese speakers to communicate scientifically about birds. However, over 30 years have already passed since the most influential book treating Japanese names for all modern birds (Yamashina 1986) was published, since when the classification of birds has undergone major changes. Here we provide a revised list of Japanese names for order- and family-level taxa, which adopts the latest classification system (Gill & Donsker 2018).