Although Japanese White-eyes are found all over Japan, including the islands of Okinawa Prefecture, in some areas such as northern Japan and mountainous areas they are not seen in winter. The Japanese White-eye is smaller than the sparrow and has a shorter tail. Its size and color make it resemble a leaf, so when the bird is in green-leafed bushes, it is not easy to find. However, its slightly elongated call “Twee” is very distinctive and its song is very complex.
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This bird's eyes are not actually white. It has a white patch around each eye and its pupils are black, while its irises are a yellowish brown or a brownish yellow. Since the White-eye is not found in Europe or North America, its name “White-eye” is likely a direct translation of its Japanese name, called Mejiro.
During fall and winter the White-eye often comes to gardens and eats nuts from trees and nectar from flowers such as Japanese camellias, so there are many opportunities to spot the birds up close. When two birds are seen together, they are often assumed to be a couple; however, the appearances of the male and the female are too similar to tell which is which. Additionally, most of the birds are thought to make a couple only during their breeding season, spring and summer, so it is very difficult to tell whether a bird is male or female. But in the spring, males can be recognized easily because they begin singing. If you watch two birds preening each other, this can be seen as confirmation that they are a couple.
In Hawaii, a vast number of native species have become extinct and most of the surviving species are classified as endangered species. Even in Honolulu you will see many different birds as you walk along the streets, but most of them are non-native.
They were brought to Hawaii from the home countries of immigrants. The Japanese White-eye brought by Japanese settlers could be said to be the most prolific non-native species, as the birds can be seen everywhere in Hawaii from Waikiki Beach to the deep mountains where some native species survive with great difficulty.
The Japanese White-eye eats insects and tree nuts, and is partial to flower nectar. Several small native species related to the Hawaiian Honeyeater have already disappeared from the same areas. While there are some species that are thought to have evolved to feed on native flower species, there may have been some that were chased away by the Japanese White-eye, which has a rich and varied diet.
In many places, threats to native species by invasive ones have become a cause for concern, so it is advisable to first get to know the native species of one's own country and region.
The White-eye is hard to spot amongst green leaves, but it is easy to find when it is looking for nectar.
Two birds preening one another is a sure sign that they are a couple, since preening is usually done by a bird to itself, not by an unrelated bird.