Manu Minute: The Warbling White-Eye

Dec 9, 2020

Standing barely 4 inches tall, white-eyes are tiny, olive-green colored birds with buff-grey colored chest, yellow throat, and a distinctive white ring around their eyes. They have slightly darker colored wings with short black bills, and black legs.
Credit Ann Tanimoto-Johnson

The warbling white-eye is a non-native bird that was introduced to the Hawaiian islands from Japan in the 1920s and '30s. Over the last century, they've become the most abundant bird in the entire state.

The mejiro is native to Japan and was purposely introduced to Hawai'i as a pet and a form of pest control.
Credit Ann Tanimoto-Johnson

From a distance, you might mistake a mejiro for a native 'amakihi, as both birds have olive-green plumage. However, the mejiro has a distinctive white circle around its eye, to which it owes its name.

The white-eye, or mejiro, can be found at sea level and up to elevations above 10,000 ft, so there's a good chance you've seen a few in your backyard.

In native forests, white-eyes compete with native bird species for food sources like nectar, insects, and small berries. This competition strains already vulnerable native bird populations.

In some areas where the number of native birds has declined significantly, white-eyes have taken over the “ecological services” of native birds, such as the pollination and seed dispersal of native plants.

Read about and hear other Hawaiian birds on our Manu Minute page.