The Cape White-eye

26th June 2010
Distribution: There are seven subspecies of Cape White-eyes. The nominate western subspecies is sometimes split as the Orange River White-eye, Zosterops pallidus, leaving the eastern races as Cape White-eye, Z. capensis . The Orange River White-eye prefers drier, more open woodland than the eastern forms, and the ranges of the two populations do not overlap. They are both endemic to South Africa.

Status: The Cape White-eye is very common throughout South Africa. This species is endemic to South Africa, though, which means it only exists in that country. The Cape White-eye also depends upon a particular habitat for survival. Destroy that habitat and the bird will possibly be lost forever.

Habitat: The preferred habitats for the Cape White-eye are forests, woodlands, savanna, grasslands and riverine areas. Yet, this species is also at home in wetlands and bushveld or scrub areas, and even in gardens..

General habits: This is a sociable species forming large flocks outside the breeding season, when it is generally seen in pairs. It is seldom seen as a single individual. It is partially migratory , with some seasonal movements.

Feeding habits: The Cape White-eye feeds mainly on insects, but also spiders and their eggs, soft fleshy flowers, nectar, fruit, pollen, and small grains. It readily comes to bird feeders. This bird mostly feeds on the ground or in the foliage, and not so much on the wing.

Breeding habits: The Cape White-eye is monogamous and only seeks a new partner if the first one dies. The peak breeding season is September to December.

Nest: The Cape White-eye builds a cup nest in the branches of a tree or shrub.

Eggs: There are usually 2 or 3 eggs in a clutch. They are pale blue and unspotted and hatch in 11-12 days.

Young: The chicks fledge after 12 to 13 days.

Call: The Cape White-eye's contact call is a sweet "twee tuuu twee twee" , higher pitched and more trilled in the Orange River White-eye subspecie. The territorial call is surprisingly loud for a small bird.

Description:. This species is a small bird, about the size of a house sparrow. It measures about 12 or 13 cm and weighs hardly 13 grams. Male and female look alike. They have rounded wings, strong legs, and a conspicuous ring of white feathers round the eyes. The upperparts plumage is green, and the throat and vent are bright yellow. The Orange River White-eye has a pale yellow central belly with peach coloured flanks, whereas the Cape subspecies has a grey breast and belly. However, the subspecies from Mpumalanga has a green-washed breast and belly.

Did you know: The Cape White-eye is also called: Pale White-eye, Green White-eye, Vaal River White-eye, Natal Zosterops [English]; Kaapse Glasogie [Afrikaans]; Intukwane [Xhosa]; umBicini, uMehlwane [Zulu]; Kaapse Brilvogel [Dutch]; Oranjebrillenvogel [German]; Zostérops du Cap [French]; Olho-branco do Cabo [Portuguese].