In the world of cute things, tiny is king. Smol is best. And to those of you rolling your eyes at that, "smol" isn't just a juvenile misspelling of a perfectly good word. Yes, tininess is a very important element of being truly smol, but there is also an emotional element.
Basically, when something is smol, we all become the Abominable Snowman in those Looney Tunes shorts. "And call him George." Tiny birds definitely fall into the smol category and I stumbled across a particularly smol bird worth appreciating. This little cotton ball is called a Long-Tailed Tit. The long-tailed tit is easily recognisable with its distinctive colouring, a tail which is bigger than its body, and undulating flight. Gregarious and noisy residents, long-tailed tits are most usually noticed in small, excitable flocks of about 20 birds.
Long-tailed tits are quite common throughout Europe and Asia, and their tails are only really "long" in relation to their tiny bodies. An adult only grows to be about 13-15 cm (5-6 in) long, and that's including the tail, which counts for as much as half that length. While their tininess is always adorable, the specific group of long-tailed tits found in Hokkaido are in a league all their own.
Attracting long-tailed tits to your garden. The small beak of the long-tailed tit is not proficient at handling large seeds. However, this species will swarm over suet-based products, which provide a quick calorific hit. Small seeds, bread crumbs, finely grated cheese and peanut fragments will also be taken. Overnight, long-tailed tits will bed down together to conserve their energy. A thick shrub such as hawthorn is favoured and individuals will huddle into a ball with their tails sticking out.
Hokkaido is the second largest island in Japan and is home to a lot of preserved wildlife areas, including six national parks and 17 quasi-national and prefectural parks. As such, it has become famous for its wildlife diversity and there are many species that can only be found there. Other animals in Hokkaido have unique features, which is the case with these tiny birds.
While most long-tailed tits have brown or gray "eyebrows" and more brown in their feathers, the ones in Hokkaido have pure white faces. This makes them look like flying cotton balls, with black tails and wings. They're distinct enough to have earned their own name: the shima-enaga bird. It literally translates to "long-tailed island" bird, which is pretty much accurate.