If you’re ever in the volcanic island of Hokkaido in Japan, be careful not to swab every white flying ball in the air like you would swab a cotton ball. You might end up smothering an adorable little bird going home to its family.
Japan’s Hokkaido Island is home to an unusual species of long-tailed tit birds that look exactly like cotton balls with black spots for eyes.  These birds are found in other regions of Europe and Asia, but the Hokkaido species is especially distinct from the rest with their pure white faces and cotton-wool-like bodies. The species in other regions would often have brown and grey feathers interwoven with the white, or sometimes, no white feathers at all.
Hokkaido is Japan’s most northernmost island and has been preserved for centuries as a hub of wildlife and tourism. The animals that live there are very comfortable with people, and it’s no wonder why these cotton balls birds are so social. Don’t be shocked if they land on your shoulder for selfies; they love getting attention.
This species is so unique and special to the island that they’ve been nicknamed the Shima-enaga bird.
Floating cotton balls
The birds move in large flocks and often make these adorable little calls to keep in touch with their group members. You can easily recognize the unique song that sounds something like ‘si-si-si-si.’
They are often 13–15cm long in adulthood and weigh between 7–9 grams. They are easily identified by an immaculately white face and neck with a stream-lined body ending in a long, dark-colored tail. 
The birds live such a communal life that their offspring can be catered to by other members of the flock. While some members are tending to the incredibly tiny babies, others are out there searching for worms or bits of food to bring home.
These cute flyers can live anywhere from parks and farms to river grasslands and thick forests, but they are mostly found in mixed woodland. They often nest in thick shrub bushes or high up in tree branches where they can protect their chicks from predators. However, they prefer to live in large groups since nesting alone is often very difficult.
These birds are sweet, social and friendly, but if you want them flocking all over you like they’ve known you forever, go along with some birdy treats such as peanuts, breadcrumbs, tiny seeds, and pizza crusts.
Remember, they are communal animals that love to move in flocks, so don’t try to swab a few if you spot a group of white ‘cotton balls’ sailing in the air.