Japanese Whiteeye Zosterops japonicus

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Physical characteristics: Japanese white-eyes have an olive-green back, pale gray underparts, and lemon-yellow throat and undertail coverts. They are about 4.7 inches (12 centimeters) long, and weigh about 0.4 ounces (11 grams). Their wing size is between 20.5 and 25.6 inches (52 and 65 centimeters), and the tail length is between 13.4 and 18.1 inches (34 and 46 centimeters).

Geographic range: Japanese white-eyes are distributed in the Japanese islands, China, Taiwan, Hainan Island, and the Philippines. They have been introduced into Hawaii and Bonin Island.

During the breeding season, each breeding pair of Japanese white-eyes defends a small nesting territory. After the breeding season, the birds form small flocks of numerous species. (Illustration by Wendy Baker. Reproduced by permission.)

Habitat: Japanese white-eyes live in broadleaf evergreen forests and deciduous forests on lowlands and foothills of mountains. They are found from sea level to the upper canopies of forests. The birds are also found on cultivated lands and gardens.

Diet: The diet of Japanese white-eyes consist of arthropods (invertebrate animal with jointed limbs), soft fruits, berries, and nectar.

Behavior and reproduction: After breeding season, the birds form small flocks of numerous species, often for foraging. They are partially migratory birds, moving to villages and suburban gardens in the winter. Males sing beautiful songs. Japanese white-eyes breed in the spring, with each breeding pair defending a small nesting territory. Cup-shaped nests are hung from a fork of shrubs. Females lay three to four eggs, which are incubated for about eleven days.

Japanese white-eyes and people: People keep males in cages in order to enjoy their songs. The birds are often found in Japanese literature.

Conservation status: Japanese white-eyes are not threatened. They are common in most parts, but in some remote areas the birds are vulnerable. ■


del Hoyo, Josep, Andrew Elliott, Jordi Sargatal, et al., eds. Handbook of the Birds of the World. Barcelona: Lynx Edicions, 1992.

Dickinson, Edward C., ed. The Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, 3rd ed. Princeton, NJ and Oxford, U.K.: Princeton University Press, 2003.

Forshaw, Joseph, ed. Encyclopedia of Birds, 2nd ed. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 1998.

Harrison, Colin James Oliver. Birds of the World. London and New York: Dorling Kindersley, 1993.

Perrins, Christopher M., and Alex L. A. Middleton, eds. The Encyclopedia of Birds. New York: Facts on File, 1985.


Class: Aves Order: Passeriformes Family: Meliphagidae Number of species: 182 species



Australian honeyeaters differ with respect to their outward appearance. They are mostly small birds with some tiny species and others as large as jays. They are longish birds with long, pointed wings, strong legs and feet, sharp claws, and rather long, down-curved and sharply-pointed bills (which vary from this basic shape, based on diet differences). They are usually dull colored, mostly greenish, olive, or brown. The smaller species often have yellow on their under parts. Some of the smaller species are black and white, while some of the larger species are black, gray, dark green, or streaked brown. Most Australian honeyeaters have colored bare skin around the eyes; a somewhat swollen mouth area; fancy wattles (skin that hangs from the throat); and a head that is bald. Such characteristics often change in color as they get older or seasonally as they breed.

In most species, the bill and legs are easily noticed due to their bright color. The bill varies in shape and size, sometimes being short and straight, slightly decurved, or quite long and markedly decurved. All birds have a unique tongue structure, being deeply notched and finely edged with bristles at the tip, forming four parallel brushes. Some of the juveniles have plumage (feathers) that differs greatly from adults, but most differences are small. Adults are 3 to 20 inches (7 to 50 centimeters) long and weigh between 0.25 and 7.0 ounces (7 and 200 grams).


Australian honeyeaters are found throughout Australia (except for dense grasslands without trees and shrubs), phylum class subclass order monotypic order suborder family

New Guinea, Melanesia, Moluccas, and Lesser Sundas, west to Bali, Micronesia, New Caledonia, and New Zealand; through Polynesia to the Hawaiian Islands. Two species occur in southern Africa.

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