Wild Birds

Cape White-eyes

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


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.


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 and the 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


This species is about 12 cm long with rounded wings, strong legs, and a conspicuous ring of white feathers around 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 virus subgroup has 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 with the te or pirrup pickup 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


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.

White-eye Information PageWhite-eye Species IndexWhite-eye Species Photo Gallery
Cape White-eye, Zosterops pallidus capensis

Gordon Ramel

Gordon is an ecologist with two degrees from Exeter University. He's also a teacher, a poet and the owner of 1,152 books. Oh - and he wrote this website.

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