These adorable Japanese birds that resemble tiny snowballs are a major attraction for tourists seeking to marvel at their cuteness. A skilled photographer has managed to capture these little creatures “working out” on delicate branches, as if they were at a gym. The resulting images are almost too perfect to believe. Known as shima-enaga or “long-tailed island birds,” these charming creatures are fondly called “snow fairies” in Japan. They are a subspecies of the long-tailed tit and are commonly found in the forests of Hokkaido, which is Japan’s second-largest island.
Hailing from an island in Japan, Hiroki Takahashi now resides in Sapporo and has developed a fascination with snow fairies. In December 2022, Hiroki managed to snap a stunning series of photographs of a little bird – the long-tailed tit – after searching for snow fairies in the forest for a month. When asked about his experience, Hiroki exclaimed that the long-tailed tit was incredibly difficult to capture due to its speedy nature, but its cute egg-shaped face made it worth the effort. To get the perfect shot, Hiroki had to walk over 20,000 steps each day and assume various positions to take a frontal photo of these adorable little birds that never stay still for too long.
Hiroki managed to capture some amazing close-up shots of the shima-enaga, also known as snow fairies, in action. His trusty Canon EOS R5 camera and 300mm lens were used to get up close and personal with these cute little creatures, as they bounced along branches, hung upside-down, and even appeared to do pull-ups on sturdy twigs. These tiny birds typically weigh around one-fifth of an ounce and measure 5 to 6 inches in adulthood. They are omnivores and feed mainly on insects and other invertebrates. While they are seen year-round on the island, their puffy, round cuteness is most prominent in the winter when they fluff their feathers for extra warmth. Unlike long-tailed tits, adult shima-enaga lose their thick black “eyebrows,” giving them pristine white faces that resemble puffed-up cotton balls. Another unique feature of these fluffy little birds is that if they don’t mate successfully in the spring, individual birds will rally to help other members of their 20- to 30-strong flock raise their young.
Shima-enaga, a treasured symbol of Hokkaido, can often be found on local souvenirs and handmade crafts. Hiroki’s journey as a photographer started with landscape and portrait photography, but it wasn’t until he became a father that his interest was piqued by single-lens reflex cameras. In early 2022, he took walks in nature and captured his first photos of Ezo flying squirrels. This sparked a newfound love for photographing animals. After sharing his latest photographs of snow fairies on Instagram, Hiroki was pleasantly surprised by the overwhelming positive response.
According to an interview with The Epoch Times, the charming appearance of animals during winter in Hokkaido made the individual happy. Despite Hokkaido’s relatively small size compared to other regions in the world, the fur of animals becomes fluffy to adapt to the cold weather, making them undeniably cute. The interviewee expressed a desire to share this cuteness with the rest of the world.