White-eyes   Zosteropidae

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White-eyes are small passerine birds. They are found in narrow belt of a region from tropical to sub tropical Africa, then southern and Eastern Asia. With the exception of the Japanese White-Eyes introduced in Hawaii, most other Pacific islands have their own sub-species of White-Eyes.

The differences between the various species of White-eyes are minimal and difficult to distinguish, the plumage being generally greenish olive above, and pale grey below. Some species have a white or bright yellow throat, breast or lower parts, and several have buff flanks. Lastly, one outstanding feature, most species have a conspicuous ring of tiny white feathers around their eyes, as their names imply.

White-eyes are sociable birds, gathering themselves into large flocks, calling and foraging together. They would go separate ways on the approach of the breeding season. They are omnivorous - feeding on tiny fruits of flowering plants, insects and they also harvest nectar. Below is a long list of White-Eyes for the region of South -east Asia.

Oriental White-eye Zosterops palpebrosus
Black-capped White-eye Zosterops atricapilla
Everett's White-eye Zosterops everetti
Javan White-eye Zosterops flavus
Pygmy White-eye Oculocincta squamifrons
Mountain Black-eye Chlorocharis emiliae

Worldwide there are 96 species of birds within this family. Out of which South-East Asia has 24 species, narrowing down to the 2 species seen in Peninsula Malaysia [mark in orange in the table above]. The birds are properly distributed by their habitats geographically according to altitude. The Oriental White-Eyes most active in the Mangrove forest and open countries waste lands. The Everett's White-Eyes in the cooler sub-montane climate.

The Oriental White-Eyes are more ostentatious moving in larger flock with their tiny calls filling the air. They may remain at a spot for some minutes. So are the numbers of bird poachers out to collect them for the Pet shops trade. These days moving around the mangrove forest is no longer a guarantee that one would meet up with a White-eyes.

Few details are published on the net to give the finer points as to the diagnostic signs to look for in an effort to  differentiate the Everett's White-Eyes from the Oriental White-Eyes, the 2 species that we could see in Peninsula Malaysia. For this page I have got a couple of images that are good representations of the 2 birds. Looking at the pictures, the distinctions and differences are obvious and self explanatory. Hopefully that is one big uncertainty about doing a positive ID and the pictures help to have it resolved.

Next further down in the section with the main text for each bird, I have selected images that have consistencies in reflecting the characteristic for that particular sub-species. But here again I do not mean to confuse, in Malaysia, the 2 species both Everett's and Oriental White-Eyes are variants within the 2 main groupings.

They differs slightly from the main sub-species. Eventually the differences highlighted and supposing to help as diagnostic markings, mentioned earlier with the 2 pictures on top, some features actually appears on and overlap that of one another. More so when the birds are seen under various environment, lightings and angles


Here are 2 pictures I borrowed to illustrate the main differences between the 2 White-Eyes found in Malaysia





The upper part is darker green without yellow on the forehead. The flanks are in deeper grey. The yellow on the throat also deeper in shades. The yellow on the vent and under tail in deeper yellow.


Slightly yellowish green on the upper part with extensive yellow on the forehead. The grey and yellow on the under part are some what paler or lighter in shade.


The existence of the 2 birds as variants of their own sub-species does indeed bring out more challenges. Fortunately there are also 2 points that help. First, the birds have preferences for habitats. The Oriental White-Eyes, more a lowland bird and that of the Mangrove wetlands while the Everett's White-Eyes prefers flowers and seed from highland plants. The second point is that the birds moves around in flock. Fair number of birds, all having identical features helps to ascertain the facts.

The 2 lots of pictures below are good examples, all grouped according to the species, illustrate the fact that if all of them having more or less the same  features, then the points noted would be a good gauge to positively ID them.



Oriental White-eyes - Zosterops palpebrosus auriventer


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 11 Cm. White-Eye is a much sort after bird by those keeping birds and those in the bird trade. Over the years, it's getting more difficult to meet up with the birds. In the mangrove forest, the birds still seen moving about in swarms of over 10 birds. But in the forest area, they re normally high over head. heard and seen in smaller flocks. The bird is tiny at 11cm long. The ventral stripe is clear broad band but of fading yellow. The upper part is yellowish green though may appear yellow at certain angle but the yellow forehead is clear to me.

 Distribution :-  The species of White-Eye is resident in the Indian sub-continent and south-west China, then the Greater & Lesser Sundas. It is a resident of Malaysia
 Habitats & preferences:- The bird first preferences would be flowering tress in the wet forest and mangrove swamps, then open parks and cultivated areas in the lowlands.
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- I cannot say where would be the most likely place to find the birds. In the mangrove forest as I had met poachers there on several occasions. But on my own I have not met any groups of White-Eyes in the mangrove areas for some time now. But in lowland forest, they are often heard, and almost all times in the canopy area of tall trees. As close as Bukit Kiara Hills.
 My personal jottings :-

It is nearly impossible to see this birds as they are often up so high, moving swiftly without stopping. Worse of all they are tiny, useless to bird watcher at that distance. But I know of places with scrubs where they would descend to eye level. Likewise I would advise those interested to keep a close look out and monitor those scrubs that other birds visit. The White-Eyes would be solitary or in group of 2-3 birds. Quite naturally as those places where big flock frequent, there would not be poachers had marked these places and the birds in the area were all mopped up.


Record of bird's call :-    and Videos


Oriental White-eye    # 1

Oriental White-eye    # 2

Oriental White-eye   # 3

Oriental White-eye    # 4

Oriental White-eye    # 5

Oriental White-eye   # 6

Oriental White-eye  # 7

Oriental White-eye    # 8

Oriental White-eye    # 9

Oriental White-eye    # 10

Oriental White-eye    # 11

Oriental White-eye   # 12

Oriental White-eye    # 16

Oriental White-eye    # 17

Oriental White-eye   # 18

Oriental White-eye    # 19

Oriental White-eye    # 20

Oriental White-eye   # 21


Everett's White-eye  Zosterops everetti tabaensis


 Size & diagnostic markings:- 11.5 Cm. No need to hunt for this bird. Unlike other bird it will not perch or stop to rest. Just look for fruiting or flowering tree, more likely it will pass through. The special shade of yellow on the throat more pronounced, the grey on the flanks very much darker. The ventral stripe near the end is prominent. The upper part is also yellowish green but of a heavier shade of green. There should be no  yellow on the forehead and lores. The ventral stripe is narrower and darker yellow.

 Distribution :-  This is a bird of the Borneo Island and the Philippines. Common resident in Malaysia.
 Habitats & preferences:- As far as I know only in sub-montane climate, i.e. in the highlands
 In Malaysia, where can the bird be found:- In fact , I would rate this White-Eyes to be easier to meet up with. They visit low scrubs and the chances of meeting up with them would be there when the scrubs flower are very good. There are sub-montane areas like Awana and many other hills.
 My personal jottings :-

 To be honest, it nearly impossible to tell the bird seen is an Oriental or Everett's until the picture is taken and compared with a known Oriental White-eye. The differences between the 2 birds is so marginal. Then there are variations between individual birds. For me the habitats where the birds were is the top clue. Then there places like hills which are rather high and remote like Bukit Tinggi for example, these would be places I exercise cautions in using that benchmark. Anyway, to assist, the type of flowers shown on the pictures is already a good clue as where to find the birds. This is a wild scrubs in all forest edge. The plants have their flowering season all over the hill slope simultaneously each year.


Record of bird's call :-    and Video:-  

Everett's White-eye  # 1

Everett's White-eye   # 2

Everett's White-eye  # 3

Everett's White-eye   # 4

Everett's White-eye   # 5

Everett's White-eye   # 6

Everett's White-eye    # 7

Everett's White-eye   # 8

Everett's White-eye   # 9

Everett's White-eye  # 10

Everett's White-eye   # 11

Everett's White-eye  # 12

Everett's White-eye    # 16

Everett's White-eye   # 17

Everett's White-eye   # 18

Everett's White-eye    # 19

Everett's White-eye   # 20

Everett's White-eye   # 21


As I was getting to know a little more about birds in general, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that "White-Eyes" is one of the kept birds. In trying to find out more about the qualities that this bird displays that earn the birds its place in the heart of the selectors I was told that that the birds has a good singing abilities.

I know for a fact that the calls from the White-Eyes are not outstanding when compared to the top singers. Secondly the colors for plumage of the bird - nothing that I, as non-hobbyist , would find extraordinary. But slowly the real reasons came  to me. White-Eyes is a prized caged birds in Japan, they are known as "Mejiro". With the Japanese migrating to Hawaii, the bird  became an introduced species on the Islands. In fact, the Chinese had maintained this hobby of keeping caged birds since time in memorial. They claimed that a good song birds could have as many as 13 melodic calls. The Chinese until now picked  and collected birds according to their fancies. Their needs for the birds? Certain birds  are preferred for 1] their chirping 2] appearance 3] fighting abilities 4] acrobatic skills 5] mimicking skills.

The White-Eyes falls into category 2. - their good looks. The value they attached to the White-Eyes is some reasoning that we are unable to appreciate yet. We are not in this hobby of displaying birds. Briefing speaking, this White-Eye is a "up market" bird just like the way as we describe goods and "fine dining" when we grade the food we eat. The White-Eyes with its brilliant yellow color, petite body combined with its subtle chirping calls blend in well with an appropriately designed cage. That type of explanation, I could see now and also vouch that this bird is active.

It is fashionable to have a light weight cage with a matching bird to bring along to the morning tea session. Meeting up with the gang of cronies for fellowship and having the bird for conversational piece as well..