Thai National Parks

Birds of Thailand

Species of Thailand

Oriental white-eye

Binomial name: Zosterops palpebrosus, Coenraad Jacob Temminck, 1824

The Oriental White-eye (Zosterops palpebrosus) is a small passerine bird in the white-eye family. It is a resident breeder in open woodland in tropical Asia, east from the Indian Subcontinent to Southeast Asia, extending to Indonesia and Malaysia. They forage in small groups, feeding on nectar and small insects. They are easily identified by the distinctive white eye-ring and overall yellowish upperparts. Several populations of this widespread species are named subspecies and some have distinctive variations in the extent and shades of yellows in their plumage.

Description

This bird is small (about 8–9 cm long) with yellowish olive upper parts, a white eye ring, yellow throat and vent. The belly is whitish grey but may have yellow in some subspecies. The sexes look similar. The species is widespread and is part of a superspecies complex that includes Zosterops japonicus, Zosterops meyeni and possibly others. The taxonomy of the group is still unclear with some island populations being distinctive while some subspecies are not well supported. The population from Flores, Indonesia for instance is found closer to the Pale White-eye. The family itself is now questioned since they are nested along with the Stachyris babblers.

About eleven subspecies are well recognised. These include the nominate form (type locality Bengal, India) which is found from Oman and Arabia, Afghanistan, northern India and extends into China and northern Myanmar. The population in the Western Ghats and hills of southern India is placed in nilgiriensis while salimalii of the Eastern Ghats hills (Shevaroy, Chitteri, Seshachalam, Nallamalai) is sometimes subsumed into the nominate race. The population of the plains of India, Laccadives and Sri Lanka are sometimes placed in egregius (= egregia) but is restricted by other works to the population in Sri Lanka. The populations in southern Myanmar, Thailand and Laos are placed in siamensis. The Nicobar Islands form is nicobaricus and is sometimes also used for the population on the Andaman Islands which are however distinctive and a distinct unnamed population. The populations from southern Thailand to western Cambodia are placed in williamsoni. Other Southeast Asian island forms include auriventer (=aureiventer), buxtoni, melanurus and unicus.

Race occidentis (now often subsumed into the nominate race) of the Western Himalayas has the upper side dark green and the flanks are tinged in brown. The form salimalii has a shorter bill and is brighter yellow-green above. Some authors consider the nominate race to be restricted to Sikkim, Bhutan, Assam and Yunnan and consider the peninsular race as occidentis (or amabilis if the form from Kathiawar described by Koelz is considered valid).

In Sri Lanka, race egregia is smaller and has a brighter back and throat than the endemic Sri Lanka White-eye, Zosterops ceylonensis found in the central hills.

The English and scientific names refer to the conspicuous ring of white feathers round the eyes, zosterops being Greek for 'girdle-eye'.

Distribution and habitat

The species is found in a wide range of habitats from scrub to moist forest. They sometimes occur on mangrove areas such as in the Karachi area. and on islands they may lead a more insectivorous life. They are somewhat rare only in the drier desert regions of western India.

A feral population was detected in San Diego, California in the 1980s and subsequently eradicated.

Behaviour and ecology

These white-eyes are sociable, forming flocks which only separate on the approach of the breeding season. They are highly arboreal and only rarely descend to the ground. The breeding season is February to September but April is the peak breeding season and the compact cup nest is a placed like a hammock on the fork of a branch. The nest is made of cobwebs, lichens and plant fibre. The nest is built in about 4 days and the two pale blue eggs are laid within a couple of days of each other. The eggs hatch in about 10 days. Both sexes take care of brooding the chicks which fledge in about 10 days. Though mainly insectivorous, the Oriental White-eye will also eat nectar and fruits of various kinds.

They call frequently as they forage and the usual contact call is a soft nasal cheer. They pollinate flower when they visit them for flower insects (such as thrips) and possibly nectar (questioned) that form their diet. The forehead is sometimes coloured by pollen leading to mistaken identifications. They have been observed bathing in dew accumulated on leaves.

When nesting, they may mob palm squirrels but being small birds they are usually on the defensive. Their predators include bats (esp. Megaderma lyra) and birds such as the White-throated Kingfisher. Endoparasitic Haemosporidia of the genus Haemoproteus and Dorisa have been isolated from the species although these rarely cause death.

Like some other white-eyes, they sometimes steal nest material from the nests of other birds. Cases of interspecific feeding have been noted with white-eyes feeding the chicks of a Paradise Flycatcher.

Although not strong fliers, they are capable of dispersing in winds and storms to new areas including offshore islands. A feral population of this species established itself in California during the 1980s requiring their capture and destruction. They were captured by luring them using call playback and live decoys into mistnets.

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Videos of Oriental white-eye

  • Oriental white-eye

    Oriental white-eye

Scientific classification

Kingdom
Animalia
Phylum
Chordata
Class
Aves
Order
Passeriformes
Family
Zosteropidae
Genus
Zosterops
Species
Zosterops palpebrosus

Synonyms

  • Sylvia palpebrosa
  • Zosterops palpebrosa

Conservation status

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Least Concern (IUCN3.1)

Distribution map of Oriental white-eye, Zosterops palpebrosus in Thailand
  • Amphawa District, Samut Songkhram
  • Ao Phang-Nga National Park
  • Ban Laem District, Phetchaburi
  • Bang Pa In District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya
  • Bang Pakong District, Chachoengsao
  • Bang Phra Non-hunting Area
  • Bang Pu Recreation Centre
  • Bangkok Province
  • Bueng Boraped Non-hunting Area
  • Chae Son National Park
  • Chiang Dao District, Chiang Mai
  • Chiang Dao Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Chiang Saen District, Chiang Rai
  • Doi Inthanon National Park
  • Doi Lo District, Chiang Mai
  • Doi Pha Hom Pok National Park
  • Doi Phu Kha National Park
  • Doi Suthep-Pui National Park
  • Hat Chao Mai National Park
  • Hat Yai District, Songkhla
  • Huai Nam Dang National Park
  • Kaeng Krachan National Park
  • Kaset Sombun District, Chaiyaphum
  • Khao Phanom Bencha National Park
  • Khao Phra - Bang Khram Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park
  • Khao Soi Dao Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Khao Sok National Park
  • Khao Yai National Park
  • Khon San District, Chaiyaphum
  • Khuan Khanun District, Phatthalung
  • Khun Chae National Park
  • Khun Korn Forest Park
  • Khun Nan National Park
  • Khung Kraben Non-hunting Area
  • Klaeng District, Rayong
  • Ko Libong
  • Laem Ngop District, Trat
  • Laem Pak Bia
  • Laem Son National Park
  • Lam Nam Kok National Park
  • Mae Fa Luang District, Chiang Rai
  • Mae Moei National Park
  • Mae Rim District, Chiang Mai
  • Mae Sai District, Chiang Rai
  • Mae Taeng District, Chiang Mai
  • Mae Wong National Park
  • Mueang Chiang Mai District, Chiang Mai
  • Mueang Chiang Rai District, Chiang Rai
  • Mueang Chonburi District, Chonburi
  • Mueang Krabi District, Krabi
  • Mueang Nan District, Nan
  • Mueang Nonthaburi District, Nonthaburi
  • Mueang Pattani District, Pattani
  • Mueang Phang Nga District, Phang Nga
  • Mueang Phuket District, Phuket
  • Mueang Samut Sakhon District, Samut Sakhon
  • Mueang Samut Songkhram District, Samut Songkhram
  • Mueang Satun District, Satun
  • Mueang Songkhla District, Songkhla
  • Mueang Sukhothai District, Sukhothai
  • Mueang Suphanburi District, Suphan Buri
  • Mueang Tak District, Tak
  • Nam Nao National Park
  • Nanthaburi National Park
  • Nong Bong Khai Non-hunting Area
  • Pak Phanang District, Nakhon Si Thammarat
  • Pak Thale
  • Pha Daeng National Park
  • Phu Hin Rong Kla National Park
  • Phu Khiao Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Phu Kradueng National Park
  • Phu Luang Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Phu Ruea National Park
  • Phu Suan Sai National Park
  • Samut Prakan Province
  • Taksin Maharat National Park
  • Takua Pa District, Phang Nga
  • Tha Phae District, Satun
  • Thale Noi Non-hunting Area
  • Thung Yai Naresuan Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Umphang Wildlife Sanctuary
  • Wiang Kaen District, Chiang Rai

Range map of Zosterops palpebrosus in Thailand

Important note; our range maps are based on limited data we have collected. The data is not necessarily accurate or complete.

Special thanks to Ton Smits, Parinya Pawangkhanant, Ian Dugdale and many others for their contribution for range data.

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