This animal papercraft is a Japanese White-eye (Zosterops japonicus), created by gansuke. The Japanese White-eye (Zosterops japonicus), also known as the mejiro, is a small passerine bird in the white-eye family. The specific epithet is occasionally written japonica, but this is incorrect due to the gender of the genus. Its native range includes much of east Asia, including Japan, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and the Philippines. It has been intentionally introduced to other parts of the world as a pet and as pest control, with mixed results. As one of the native species of the Japanese islands, it has been depicted in Japanese art on numerous occasions, and historically was kept as a cage bird.
Introduced to Hawaii in 1929 as a means of insect control, it has since become a common bird on the Hawaiian Islands, and has become a vector for avian parasites that are now known to adversely affect populations of native birds such as Hawaiian honeycreepers, as well as spreading invasive plant species through discarded seeds.
The Japanese White-eye is olive green on its back, from anterior to posterior, and is pale green on its underside. Its feet, legs, and bill range from black to brown. It has a green forehead and a yellow throat. The White-eye has rounded wings and a long, slender bill – both of which indicate this bird to be very acrobatic. Its wings are dark brown, but outlined in green. Like other white-eyes, this species exhibits the distinctive white eyering that gives it its name. Adults range from 4 to 4.5 inches in length, and weigh between 9.75 and 12.75 grams.
The Japanese White-eye is naturally found in Japan, Taiwan, eastern China, and the northern Philippines. Migratory populations of the bird spend winters in Burma, Hainan Island, and Vietnam. The White-eye is widespread and common in Japan, considered one of the more dominant bird species.
The Japanese White-eye, originally introduced in O’ahu in 1929, has rapidly expanded its population and can now be found on every island of Hawaii; the climates of these islands range from tropical rain forests to deciduous forests. After subsequent releases and natural range expansion, the White-eye was determined to be the most abundant land bird on the Hawaiian Islands as early as 1987.
The Japanese White-eye’s successful invasion of the Hawaiian Islands can be partially attributed to the lack of coevolution between endemic species and the White-eye.The occurrence of coevolution is driven by species interactions that directly impact physical development. In many cases coevolution is derived from competition in which both species vie for an edge or advantage to maximize their dietary or “resource” acquirement. Because the White-eye did not coevolve with avian species native to Hawaii, the White-eye has certain advantageous characteristics, such as the resistance to avian malaria, that the native species do not possess. The native species never had a chance to change in response to evolutionary changes in the White-eye.
White-eye range expansion has also been cited as a negative effect on native bird species. White-eye expansion is arguably characteristic of what E.O Wilson called a “Taxon Cycle”.The cycle attempts to model the interactions between endemic species and newly immigrated non-native populations through the use of “Stages” -each with defined characteristics with respect to overall population behavior. A newly immigrated species is expected to experience rapid growth through the new habitat largely due to the lack of effective endemic persistence – the ability of the community to repel outside forces that may cause changes in its species composition. This prediction matches much of the current data indicating the White-eye has become highly common on most, if not all, of the Hawaiian Islands. The force of natural selection has promoted the dietary or “resource” specialization of many of the later stage endemic species – a prime example being the honeycreeper. This particular species has become especially affected by the White-eye presence due to honeycreeper dependence on nectar as a primary resource.In contrast, the White-eye maintains a highly diverse selection of dietary options and is able to take full advantage of numerous habitats on the islands. The differences in resource limitations between the two species has resulted in the drastic decline of the honeycreeper population, as they are outcompeted by the invasive White-eye.This occurrence is best explained by the competitive exclusion principle, which dictates that two complete competitors cannot co-exist.
Increases in the Japanese White-eye population in Hawaii have negative effects on the growth and survival of native birds in the community. In one study, the bill length, tarsus length, and mass of native Hawaiian passerine birds were measured during 1987-2006 using the technique of mark and recapture. In 2000, juveniles of every native species showed lower mass and shorter bills than before. These changes led to decreased survival of both juveniles and second year individuals/older adults. These birds also showed shorter tarsi, the group of bones in the hind feet of some vertebrates, although this change was less drastic than that seen with the bills. Birds with original bill lengths closest to that of the White-eye suffered the most, undergoing changes that lowered their foraging efficiency. For example, the endangered Hawaiian akepa was viable during 1987-1999, but not during 2000-2006, in association with an abrupt increase in White-eyes. These facts document strong community-wide exploitative competition for food between the Japanese White-eye and passerine birds native to Hawaii, meaning the White-eye depletes the availability of food for other bird species. They also compete for space; the White-eye has expanded its range into remote areas within the two decades 1980-2000. The distribution of the Japanese White-eye has been shown to negatively correlate with the distributions of native birds, meaning as the white-eye becomes more highly distributed, native birds become less distributed. Many Hawaiian birds are endangered or already extinct; this occurrence is believed to be related to the invasion of the White-eye.
This bird species is rarely found on the ground. It is a very sociable species that may form flocks with other species, in which the birds form groups to forage during flight; White-eyes only flock with birds of other species outside of the breeding season. Allopreening – the art of cleaning, grooming, and maintaining parts of the body – is extremely common. Interspecific allopreening has been observed in captivity. While sociable, however, the White-eye typically forms monogamous relationships with mates – it has only one mate at any one time.
Social hierarchy in a flock is established through physical displays. Some of these displays are not sex dependent, such as wing flicks exposing the underwing, wing flutters and vibrations, as well as open beak displays and beak snaps. During breeding seasons, however, males establish territories via the sex-specific activity of singing loudly. Males will fend off intruders of the same species, yet will allow other species of birds to nest inside of their territory.
Native species need normal juvenile mass and bill length to recover and persist, but for this to happen, food must be restored to former levels. There is support that an introduced bird, such as the Japanese White-eye, is responsible for the food shortage. Control of the White-eye is therefore essential for the recovery of native Hawaiian birds. The determination of the status of native birds is essential; those found to be endangered could possibly benefit from the designation of critical habitat. In 1980, a program to eradicate the Indian White-eye in California involved mist-netting and shooting the birds, and this proved to be the most successful of the various capture methods explored.Whether eradication is feasible and applicable to other instances of invasive exotic birds is yet to be determined, but could be considered a possibility for the eradication of the Japanese White-eye in the Hawaiian Islands. However, because the White-eye’s current ecological role is not fully understood further studies are necessary before any drastic measures are taken.
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