Bush Warbler (Uguisu, ウグイス) is the Bird Telling the Spring in Japan, isn’t it?
Yes, it’s well know as the bird that tells the arrival of spring in Japan, but the bird in the picture is a Japanese white-eye (Mejiro, メジロ). Bush warblers are really cautious, so you can rarely see them even when you can hear them.
Japanese white-eyes are about 12cm long, and are know as the symbol of spring just like bush warblers. They have a white circle around each eye, a green back, and dark-brown feathers. It is written as “目白” (Mejiro, めじろ) in kanji.
“目” means an eye, and
“白” means white.
On the contrary, bush warblers don’t have any features around their eyes and their color is light brown. The colors are completely different between these two birds, but not many Japanese people know that. There are three reasons for this:
- Although both birds sing around the same time, you can only see Japanese white-eyes, as bush warblers are cautious and are hiding. People confuse them when they hear bush warblers and they see Japanese white-eyes on the branch of a tree.
- In Japan, there is a color called “uguisu-iro” (“color of bush warblers”); however, it is not light brown like bush warblers, but grayish olive green like Japanese white-eyes.
- Bush warblers are drawn in light brown in Japanese-style paintings, but in Japanese playing cards, they are drawn in light green. And the same with Japanese confectionery, as light green is more appetizing than light brown.
Either way, they are both birds that tell us spring has come. When they appear, you can tell that the scene takes place in March or April.
There is an idiom “目白押し” (Mejiro Oshi, めじろ おし) in Japanese. Japanese white-eyes have a habit of sitting on the branches together as if pushing each other. This expression is derived from this behavior, meaning a lot of things are lining up really closely without any gaps.
Now you’ve read this article, you probably know more than a normal Japanese person would.