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Cape White-eye - BirdForum Opus

Subspecies virens
Photo © by John Dempsey
Oribi Gorge Nature Reserve, South Africa, 30 August 2004

Disambiguation: Pale White-eye has in the past been used for this species but is currently used for a different species Pale White-eye
Disambiguation: Green White-eye has traditionally been used for subspecies virens of this species but is now applied to a different species of white-eye: Green White-eye

Zosterops virens


Length 12 cm (5"), mass 8-15 g
Rounded wings, strong legs, marked eye-ring of white feathers. Upperparts olive-green; throat and vent are bright yellow.

Subspecies capensis
Photo © by max1
Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden, Western Cape, South Africa, 18 October 2017


South-eastern Botswana, southern Mozambique, eSwatini, Lesotho and South Africa.


A member of the Zosteropidae family (Swainson, 1838).


There are two subspecies recognized:1

  • Z. v. capensis -- Cape White-eye
  • Southwestern South Africa (east to western Eastern Cape), Lesotho, and western KwaZulu-Natal
  • Grey breast and belly
  • Z. v. virens -- Green White-eye
  • Eastern South Africa (eastern Eastern Cape to eastern Free State, KwaZulu-Natal, and Mpumalanga), eSwatini, and southwestern Mozambique
  • Green back and all yellow breast and belly

Subspecies atmorii is currently considered a synonym of capensis and therefore not recognized. Subspecies caniviridis is currently considered a synonym of nominate virens and therefore not recognized.

It was recently recognized that Z. virens has priority[5]. Orange River White-eye was formerly considered conspecific with this species.


Forest, woodland, thickets, plantations, and gardens.



Feeds mainly on insects, but also soft fleshy flowers, nectar, fruit and small grains. It will come to bird feeders.


Breeding season is September to December. Builds a cup nest in a tree, lays 2-3 pale blue eggs, which hatch in 11-12 days. Young fledge in 12-13 days.


The call is a sweet twee tuuu twee twee, higher pitched and more trilled in the Orange River White-eye. The territorial call is very loud.


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, D. Roberson, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2017. The eBird/Clements checklist of birds of the world: v2017, with updates to August 2017. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. del Hoyo, J. & Collar, N. (2018). Cape White-eye (Zosterops virens). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/1343955 on 18 June 2018).
  3. Gill, F & D Donsker (Eds). 2018. IOC World Bird List (v8.1). doi : 10.14344/IOC.ML.8.1. Available at http://www.worldbirdnames.org/.
  4. Oatley, G., Voelker, G., Crowe, T.M. & Bowie, R.C.K. (2012) A multi-locus phylogeny reveals a complex pattern of diversification related to climate and habitat heterogeneity in southern African white-eyes. Mol. Phylogenet. Evol. 64(3): 633–644.
  5. Thompson, L.J. & Taylor, B. (2014) Is the Cape White-eye Zosterops virens or Zosterops capensis? Ostrich 85(2): 197–199.
  6. Birdforum thread discussing taxonomy of Southern African White-eyes
  7. del Hoyo, J., N. Collar, and G. M. Kirwan (2020). Cape White-eye (Zosterops virens), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.capwhe2.01

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