Hocho (Bird Release) (放鳥)

Hocho is to let a bird which has been captured or reared by humans free from human stewardship by releasing it out of doors.

Purpose

Hocho occurs for various reasons.

To release a bird which was incubated artificially and raised for breeding.

In Japan, ryoyukai (hunting associations) across Japan continue to release pheasants and copper pheasants which were reared as game for hunting.

To release endangered birds after breeding. The stork in Japan is bred through artificial rearing because it has become extinct in the wild. Hocho has been used in order to encourage storks to breed in the wild since 2005.

To release a wild bird after its temporary capture and marking for investigation of its distribution and ecology.

Hocho for religious reasons. Previously captured birds were released at funeral ceremonies and during hojoe (the ritual for releasing living beings) in order to do good or pious deeds.

As stage effects in ceremonies. Birds are sometimes thrown up to wheel in the sky in order to bring a festival to life. A flock of pigeons is often released as a messenger of peace. On occasion hocho is done at private funeral ceremonies.

In recent years hocho has come to mean the act of uncaging birds such as so-called companion birds including tame paddybirds, cockatiels and peach-faced lovebirds, and releasing them into a room while remaining attached to the owner, so that the owner can experience and enjoy time with the bird in a freer setting than the cage. It is beneficial for birds which can not fly in their cage because they can relieve stress, take exercise and increase communication with the owner.

Problems

Hocho without much consideration can be harmful. If a bird not found in the local area is released, it becomes an introduced species and may cause pressure on an ecosystem or genetic contamination. The Chinese bamboo partridge and Mongolian pheasant have settled in Japan through hocho for hunting. Hocho is considered to be one of the origins of pigeons in cities. In recent years, hocho has been reduced because the harm caused by pigeons has become a problem.

Hocho for species preservation is also faced with difficult problems. Practice suggests that it is not very easy for an artificially reared bird to maintain its life in the wild.