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Birds of a feather

All birds grow feathers, making them different from all other animals, and is one of the key differentiating factors from reptiles, with which they share many traits. The different types of feathers help a bird to fly, or even to swim, and they also protect its sensitive skin, help attract mates, serve as camouflage, and are insulators to trap body heat.

The Japanese White-eye (Zosterops japonica) is an East Asian bird that is resident in Hong Kong, a natural part of Hong Kong’s ecology and also a common pet. The name of this tiny, ubiquitous bird comes from the white feathers that surround its eye. Males establish their dominance based on who can shrill the loudest.

Birds have three basic types of feathers:

Contour feathers, which are stiff, flexible, and very strong yet lightweight.

Down feathers, are fluffy feathers located close to the body, underneath the other feathers and help to keep the bird warm, and you can see these "fluff up" as the bird preens.

Flight feathers, shaped to fan the air, creating "lift" to help a bird get off the ground, move about in the air, and land safely.

These white eyes are sociable birds often joining flocks of other birds. When in their own groups, they have a social hierarchy established through varying physical displays. Both sexes flex, flutter and vibrate their wings, as well as opening their beaks and rapidly snapping them shut.

Omnivorous birds, they feed on insects, nectar and fruit. The consumption of pollen has lead to some interesting ‘orange-headed’ varieties.

These birds can be found in the new year cherry blossoms, or the flame trees that are found around Hong Kong.

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