A Japanese white-eye seen through the blossoms

Photo: Hirohito Takada/Shutterstock

A sweet little bird with a big sweet tooth, the Japanese white-eye seems to be as prominent during springtime in Asia as the blossoming cherry and plum trees. Also called the mejiro, these green songbirds flit from branch to branch and tree to tree in large groups, sipping the nectar from the fresh blooms.

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Japanese white-eye in blossoming plum tree

Photo: feathercollector/Shutterstock

Mejiros spend the majority of their time in the treetops. This species of passerine or perching birds is native to Japan, but can also be found in Taiwan, China and the Philippines. During the winter, migratory populations of mejiros can be spotted in Vietnam and Burma.

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A Japanese white-eye sticks his beak into the flower of a cherry tree

Photo: lunapiena/Shutterstock

Japanese white-eyes also thrive in the Hawaiian Islands, where they were introduced to feed on the insects. This spunky little songbird has demonstrated its ability to adapt to all types of climates across the islands and is one of the most commonly seen birds there. And though they are a pretty sight, they're not always a welcome one because they compete with other nectarivorous birds and carry diseases that have negatively affected other bird populations in the area.

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Japanese white-eye looking straight at the camera

Photo: Big Ben in Japan/flickr

Part of the reason why these birds might spread germs could be attributed to their extremely social nature. They aren't shy when it comes to interacting with other bird species, forming flocks with different kinds of birds. They've even been known to preen and groom other bird species when observed in captivity.

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A brightly colored photo of a Japanese white-eye in a Sakura tree

Photo: apiguide/Shutterstock

During the mating season, males are not as friendly. They sing loudly for the females, sure, but when it comes to protecting their nesting area, they'll protect their territory and even steal materials from other nests!

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Agile Japense white-eye pokes its beak into a blossom

Photo: apiguide/Shutterstock

Mejiros are quite the acrobats, nimbly navigating up and down the tree branches to get the best angle for a drink of nectar, which they sip through long, curved beaks. Their rounded wings allow them to fly from branch to branch and tree to tree with agile grace.

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Japanese white-eye in the branches of a plum tree

Photo: Richard Fisher/flickr

In the springtime and throughout the breeding season, the male mejiro's song signals the sunrise. Songs don't just attract females – they mark territory as well.

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Japanese white-eye poking around blossoms

Photo: coniferconifer/flickr

Cherry blossoms are a favorite retreat for the Japanese white-eye, and fittingly so. It is Japanese custom to sit beneath the Sakura trees, sipping sake and feasting on picnic foods. Similarly, the mejiros drink all the nectar their little beaks can handle!

Indeed, springtime is a time of indulgence for these quirky birds as they gear up to start families. As the year progresses, many populations will migrate and the birds' diets will focus more on fruit and insects. Japanese white-eyes do their part for the environment in Japan and elsewhere, spreading the seeds from their favorite fruit all around the landscape, ensuring their young will have plenty to feast on as well.

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Anna Norris is an associate editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow her on Twitter and Google+.

Meet spring's biggest fan: The Japanese white-eye
These spunky birds have an eye for the beautiful, flirting with blossoms and flitting from branch to branch on the prettiest trees.