Japanese White-eye: This small active songbird has an olive-green head, neck and back. Wings and upper tail feathers are blackish-brown outlined with green. It has a yellow throat, gray breast and flanks with a buff wash, white belly and eye ring, black bill, legs and feet. It feeds mostly on insects and nectar. Undulates, actively flits and swoops among foliage. Sexes similar, female is duller.
Range and Habitat
Japanese White-eye: Native to Japan. Found all over Japan, including Okinawa. Introduced to O'ahu in 1929 for pest control. Most abundant bird in Hawaii and is found on all islands. Habitats include trees and shrubs in towns, parks, forests, and rainforests from sea level to tree line, and even in mangroves in the south.
The white-eyes are one of the one hundred eighteen families of birds in the order PASSERIFORMES (pronounced pas-ser-i-FOR-meez); a large taxonomic order that also includes the vireos, the babblers, and the Old World warblers.
One hundred and five species of white-eyes in fourteen genera are found in the Zosteropidae (pronounced zos-ter-OP-uh-dee), a family mostly occurring in Africa, Asia, Australia, and on many islands in the Pacific Ocean.
There is one species of white-eye in one genus that occurs in North America (including Hawaii). This is a species introduced to Hawaii, the Japanese White-eye.
Members of the Zosteropidae, the Japanese White-eye included, are mostly known for the distinctive feature that gives this family its name; prominent white markings that form “spectacles” around the eyes.
The white-eyes are small, vireo-like birds with rather short tails, short wings, strong, medium- length legs and feet, and a rounded head with a thin, sharp, medium-length bill.
Members of this family are for the most part yellow-olive above, yellow on the throat and vent, and white on the rest of the underparts. Some species also have chestnut in their plumage, and most species have prominent, white spectacles around the eyes.
The sole representative of the white-eyes in North America occurs in all habitats on most of the Hawaiian Islands from lowland scrub to montane forests. Most other members of this family occur in tropical forest habitats in their native ranges.
The Japanese White-eye is a permanent resident in the Hawaiian Islands.
Outside of the breeding season, white-eyes are very social birds typically found in large flocks that forage together. Like members of the family in their native ranges, the Japanese White-eye actively moves through trees and bushes to glean insects from the foliage. Most species also feed on fruit and nectar, and have brush-tipped tongues for this purpose.
Although the non-threatened Japanese White-eye is a species of the Asian continent introduced to Hawaii, other white-eyes have been very successful in naturally colonizing islands in the Pacific Ocean. Such past colonizations have led to separate white-eye species evolving in many of these places. Presently, though, many of these species are also highly endangered because of habitat destruction in their already very small ranges.
Although the Japanese White-eye was introduced to Hawaii in 1929 as a means of controlling insect pests, it has become a threat to native birds by competing with them and carrying avian diseases against which the native birds have few defenses.