home   about   search

biodiversity explorer

the web of life in southern Africa

Zosterops virens (Cape white-eye)

[= Zosterops pallidus

Kaapse glasogie [Afrikaans]; Intukwane [Xhosa]; umBicini, uMehlwane [Zulu]; Setona-mahloana [South Sotho]; Manqiti (generic term for white-eye) [Tsonga]; Kaapse brilvogel [Dutch]; Zostérops du Cap [French]; Oranjebrillenvogel [German]; Olho-branco do Cabo [Portuguese]

Life > Eukaryotes > Opisthokonta > Metazoa (animals) > Bilateria > Deuterostomia > Chordata > Craniata > Vertebrata (vertebrates)  > Gnathostomata (jawed vertebrates) > Teleostomi (teleost fish) > Osteichthyes (bony fish) > Class: Sarcopterygii (lobe-finned fish) > Stegocephalia (terrestrial vertebrates) > Tetrapoda (four-legged vertebrates) > Reptiliomorpha > Amniota > Reptilia (reptiles) > Romeriida > Diapsida > Archosauromorpha > Archosauria > Dinosauria (dinosaurs) > Saurischia > Theropoda (bipedal predatory dinosaurs) > Coelurosauria > Maniraptora > Aves (birds) > Order: Passeriformes > Family: Zosteropidae  

Zosterops virens (Cape white-eye) Zosterops virens (Cape white-eye)

Cape white-eye. [photo Johann Grobbelaar ©]

Cape white-eye feeding on Callistemon, Grootvadersbos, Western Cape, South Africa. [photo H. Robertson, Iziko ©]

Distribution and habitat

Near-endemic to South-Africa, occurring across much of the country, excluding the Kalahari Desert and extending into south-eastern Botswana. It is very common in a wide variety of habitats, including Karoo, fynbos, suburban gardens and parks, evergreen forest, dune scrub, Acacia veld and Eucalyptus plantations.

Predators and parasites

It has been recorded as prey of the following birds:

Brood parasites

It has been recorded as host of the Jacobin cuckoo.


It eats a variety of invertebrates (especially aphids), fruit and nectar, foraging in pairs or small parties year-round. It mainly gleans prey from leaves and branches, occasionally plucking an insect from the air or ground. The following food items have been recorded in its diet:

  • Invertebrates
  • Fruit
    • figs
      • Ficus salicifolia (Wonderboom fig)
      • Ficus sur (Broom-cluster fig)
      • Ficus petersii (Peters fig)
    • Kiggelaria africana (Wild peach)
    • Olea capensis (Ironwood)
    • Schinus molle (Pepper-tree)
    • Coteanaster
    • Pyracantha
    • Lantana camara (Cherry-pie)
    • apricots
    • mulberries (Morus)
    • grapes
    • plums
    • pears
    • blackberries
    • oranges
  • Nectar
    • Aloe ferox (Bitter aloe)
    • Aloe pluridens  (French aloe)
    • Diospyros pubescens (Jackal-berry)
    • Scutia myrtina (Cat-thorn)
    • Poinsettia
    • Erythrina (Coral-trees)
    • Callistemon (alien Bottle-brushes)
    • Grevillea robusta (Silky oak)


  • Both sexes construct the nest (see image below) in about 5-9 days; it is a small cup built of materials collected near the nest site, such as Usnea barbata (Old man's beard), dry grass, rootlets, tendrils and other dry plant fibres, bound together with spider's web. It is typically concealed in the foliage of a tree or bush, slung between a few branches and well hidden.
Zosterops virens (Cape white-eye)

Cape white-eye at nest with chicks. [photo Peter Steyn ©]

Zosterops virens (Cape white-eye)  

Cape white-eye nest with eggs, Sericea farm, South Africa. [photo Warwick Tarboton ©]

  • Egg-laying season is from August-April, peaking from October-December.
  • It lays 2-4 eggs, which are incubated by both sexes for about 10-12 days.
  • Both parents brood and feed the chicks, who leave the nest after about 12-13 days. They remain in the foliage surrounding the nest for some time; during this period they are very vulnerable to predator attacks.


Not threatened, in fact it is greatly benefited from the introduction of suburban gardens.


  • Hockey PAR, Dean WRJ and Ryan PG 2005. Roberts - Birds of southern Africa, VIIth ed. The Trustees of the John Voelcker Bird Book Fund, Cape Town.