Another bird sighted on our recent trip to Japan: this Japanese white-eye was photographed in a small urban park in Sakaide. In Japan this cute little bird is called “mejiro” which means “white-eye” in Japanese.
The Japanese white-eye (Zosterops japonicus) is native to much of eastern Asia. It has also been introduced to many South Pacific islands, including Hawaii. The Japanese white-eye has been so successful in Hawaii that it is often considered an invasive species there. Although this white-eye can be very prolific and deplete the food sources of native Hawaiian species, it still is valuable for insect control and as a pollinator. Within its native range, more northern populations migrate south to warmer locations in the winter.
Except for its distinctive white eye ring, the Japanese white-eye is a nondescript little bird. Although it varies widely between subspecies, the white-eye is olive to dusky green on the backside and a pale olive green on the underside with brighter yellow on the throat and rump. Its wings are dark brown and outlined in olive green. The legs and slightly recurved bill are black/brown.
Omnivorous Japanese white-eyes move very quickly and display acrobatic moves (hanging upside down and in various other postures) while searching for fruits, seeds, insects and nectar. Very rarely are Japanese white-eyes found on the ground, instead preferring to remain in the lower canopy of trees in open forests, thickets, gardens and urban areas.
Japanese white-eyes are very sociable birds and outside of the breeding season will congregate with other white-eyes or form mixed flocks with other species. They practice allopreening – preening the feathers of their white-eye mates or white-eye flock members. Even though they are very sociable, white-eyes have a monogamous relationship with their mates.
Because Japanese white-eyes are easy to tame and adapt well to captivity they are commonly kept as caged pets. Comprehensive manuals give information for their care and breeding. White-eyes are also a favorite bird in Asian aviaries where they are considered “fill birds” providing plentiful background color, activity and songs.