Cape White-eyes

The Cape White-eye, Zosterops pallidus, is a small passerine bird in the white-eye family.

Distribution

It is found in a wide range of densely to lightly wooded habitats in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique, Lesotho and Swaziland. Most populations are resident, but some perform minor seasonal movements.

Taxonomy

There are six subspecies. Traditionally, the western nominate group and the eastern capensis group have been treated as separate species:

  • the Orange River White-eye (Zosterops [capensis] pallidus) and
  • the Cape White-eye (Zosterops [capensis] capensis). The latter can be further divided into two subgroups,
    • the south-western capensis subgroup andthe eastern virens subgroup (the so-called Green White-eye).

All subspecies interbreed where they come into contact (including members of the nominate group with members of the capensis group of both subgroups in Free State), but some authorities (e.g. IOC) maintain the Cape and Orange River White-eyes as separate species.

Cape White-eye, Zosterops pallidus capensis
Cape White-eye, Zosterops pallidus capensis

Identification

This species is about 12 cm long with rounded wings, strong legs, and a conspicuous ring of white feathers round the eyes.

The upperparts are green, and the throat and vent are bright yellow. The members of the nominate group have a pale yellow central belly with peach colored flanks.

The members of the capensis subgroup have a grey breast and belly, while the virens subgroup have a greenish-yellow breast and belly.

Calls / Vocalizations

They are very vocal, and constantly keep in touch with soft trilled pee, pree or pirreee callnotes.

The song consists of repeated long jerky phrases of sweet reedy notes, varying in pitch, volume and temp, usually starting off with teee teee or pirrup pirrup notes, then becoming a fast rambled jumble of notes, which may incorporate mimicked phrases of other birdcalls.

Cape White-eyes, Zosterops capensis
Juvenile Cape White-eyes, Zosterops capensis

Breeding

This is a sociable species forming large flocks outside the breeding season.

It builds a cup nest in a tree and lays 2-3 unspotted pale blue eggs. The eggs hatch in 11–12 days, and fledging occurs in another 12–13 days.

The peak breeding season is September to December.

Diet / Feeding

The Cape White-eye feeds mainly on insects, but also soft fleshy flowers, nectar, fruit and small grains.

It readily comes to bird feeders.

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Cape White-eye, Zosterops pallidus capensis
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