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Silvereye - BirdForum Opus

Photo © by Neil
Sydney, Australia, August 2004
Zosterops lateralis

Includes: Lord Howe White-eye


Ssp tephropleurus - Lord Howe White-eye
Photo © by Mat & Cathy
Lord Howe Island, New South Wales, Australia, December 2007

12cm (4¾ in), 13gm.
Also known as wax-eye, or white-eye, it has a conspicuous white ring around the eye, thus giving the bird its name.
The head and upperparts are olive green with a grey band across the back, which extends around the chest.
The underparts are a peachy brown with white under the tail.


An abundant native to Australia and New Zealand.
Recent colonist to New Zealand - 1856, at the settlement stage. The Maori name is Tauhou meaning "Stranger". Was not known in NZ until the middle of the 19th century, but it is thought that a storm caught a migrating flock and diverted them to New Zealand.
As they arrived naturally and colonised NZ on their own, they are protected like other native species.
Also found in New Caledonia, the Loyalty Islands, Vanuatu and Fiji.


Photo © by Rose Fletcher
Nangawooka Flora Reserve, South Australia, 4 January 2008


Ssp lateralis
Photo © by flossiepip
Dargaville, Northland, New Zealand, August 2016

There are 17 subspecies[1]:

  • Z. l. chloronotus: South West Western Australia (Shark Bay to far south-western South Australia)
  • Z. l. vegetus: North East Queensland (McIlwraith Range to Burdekin River)
  • Z. l. cornwalli: East Australia (east-central Queensland to Hunter River, New South Wales)
  • Z. l. chlorocephalus: East Queensland (islands of Capricorn coast)
  • Z. l. westernensis: South East Australia (southeast New South Wales to Victoria)
  • Z. l. pinarochrous: South Australia (Eyre Peninula) to north-western Victoria and adjacent NSW
  • Z. l. ochrochrous: King Island (Bass Strait)
  • Z. l. lateralis: breeds Tasmania and Flinders Island (Bass Strait); winters in coastal eastern Australia. Also colonized New Zealand in the 19th century, now resident throughout New Zealand (colonized ca 1832) and on Norfolk Island (colonized 1904)
  • Z. l. vatensis: North Vanuatu, Banks Group and Torres Island
  • Z. l. valuensis: Vanua Lava Island (Vanuatu)
  • Z. l. tropicus: Espíritu Santo Island (Vanuatu)
  • Z. l. macmillani: Vanuatu (Tanna and Aniwa islands)
  • Z. l. nigrescens: Loyalty Islands (Ouvéa and Maré)
  • Z. l. melanops: Lifou (Loyalty Islands)
  • Z. l. griseonota: New Caledonia
  • Z. l. flaviceps: Fiji Archipelago
  • Z. l. tephropleurus: Lord Howe Island

The subspecies tephropleurus from Lord Howe Island is sometimes treated as full species, Lord Howe White-eye.


Tree cover, up to 1000m



Silvereyes feed on a variety of foods, invertebrates, fruit, and nectar and will feed in flocks over winter in gardens and parks they have a fine tapered bill and a brush tipped tongue for drinking nectar. They prefer the fruit of native trees but do feed on other fruiting species.


As the breeding season approaches the pair break away to form individual territories. They are prolific breeders, often raising 2-3 broods, occasionally as many as 5 per season, with between 2-5 eggs per brood.


Click on photo for larger image


  1. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, S. M. Billerman, T. A. Fredericks, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2019. The eBird/Clements Checklist of Birds of the World: v2019. Downloaded from http://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  2. van Balen, B. and D. A. Christie (2020). Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis), 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.silver3.01

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External Links

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