Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Bird of the month: Silvereye

Posted on 27 March, 2023 by Ivan

Welcome to Bird of the month, a partnership between Connecting Country and BirdLife Castlemaine District. Each month we’re taking a close look at one special local bird species. We’re excited to join forces to deliver you a different bird each month, seasonally adjusted, and welcome suggestions from the community. We are blessed to have the brilliant Jane Rusden and Damian Kelly from BirdLife Castlemaine District writing about our next bird of the month, accompanied by Damian’s stunning photos.

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis)

A moderately common sight year-round, in gardens with a suitable food plant or water source, are small flocks of tiny Silvereyes, also known as White-eyes. They are a delight to watch. At only 10-12 grams and 125 mm long, this tiny olive bird, with a pale chest and distinctive white or silver eye ring, is a miniature favourite.

Even their soft-sounding “Zcheee” contact call, is endearing, which is lucky because they are chatty and constantly calling to each other. Like so many Australian birds, they are also mimics and adept at copying other bird calls.

It’s amazing to ponder the distances these tiny birds can cover, banding studies have recorded movements from Margret River WA to Braidwood NSW, that’s 3,159 km of flying. Many birds including some in the Castlemaine area where they overwinter, fly 1,500 km between Tasmania and NSW, which means crossing the treacherous Bass Strait. Silvereyes being so mobile, their ranges cover Southern WA, all along the south coast of Australia and up the eastern coast, extending inland over the Great Dividing Range to the edge of central deserts.

The Silvereye is not only highly mobile, but highly adaptable as well. They eat a varied diet including nectar, fruits, insects and foraging in small groups. Enjoying soft fruits in your garden, sipping nectar from flowers including gums, and gleaning insects, moving from ground level and right up through shrub layers into the tree tops.

Silvereye foraging for food in a Castlemaine garden. Photo by Damian Kelly.

Although Silvereyes are usually in small flocks, during the spring breeding season they split into life pairs and defend breeding territories. Both parents brood the 2-4 eggs laid in a cup-shaped nest, once hatched both parents feed the chicks. Often Silvereye pairs attempt to rear two broods in a breeding season.

So keep an eye out for this diminutive bird in your garden and around town, with its distinctive silver eye ring and ability to fly such huge distances. That’s a lot of birds in a tiny fluff ball.

Silvereye in a fruit tree, with its buff coloured flank, indicating it’s the Tasmanian type bird, which can be seen overwintering in the Castlemaine area. Photo by Damian Kelly.


To listen to the call of the Silvereye – click here

Jane Rusden
Damian Kelly

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