Bird of the Week – Week 111 – Orange River white-eye

The common Afrikaans name for the Orange River white-eye is the “Gariep glasogie”, which translates as the “Gariep glass-eye”. (The Gariep was the original Nama name for the Orange River, a name which is presently coming back into common usage (the river was re-named after William V of Orange by one of the early explorers from the Dutch East India Company)). When we were growing up in the Eastern Cape, the little white-eyes that abounded in our neighbourhood where therefore called “glassies”. Those would have been Cape white-eyes, though, and the Orange River white-eyes have recently been “split off” from the Cape white-eyes and designated as a separate species.

Orange River-white-eye

The Orange River white-eye is endemic to the southern African region and is found, not surprisingly, along the Orange River, but also northwards into Namibia, where they are not uncommon along the Swakop and Kuiseb Rivers, and southwards into South Africa. It is very similar to the Cape white-eye in appearance and some hybridization occurs where the ranges of the two overlap.

Orange River-white-eye

The Orange River white-eye is a small bird with a length of just 12 cm. The sexes are alike, with greenish crown and upperparts; yellow throat; peach coloured or buff flanks and yellow vent. It has a very distinct white ring around its black eyes, a black bill and black legs and feet.

Its preferred habitat is quite dense riverine woodland, but it is also found in other wooded areas, including parks. It feeds mainly on insects which it gleans from leaves or prises from under the bark as it moves quickly through the foliage, and on fruit and berries.

Orange River-white-eye

The call of the Orange River white-eye is a subdued “pee, tee, pee, tee”. They are monogamous and build a cup-shaped nest, usually placed in a tree or a tall bush. The female lays a clutch of about three pale blue eggs, and the incubation period is presently not known.

Orange River-white-eye

The scientific binomial for the Orange River white-eye is Zosterops pallidus; Zosterops from the Greek words for “girdle” and “eye”, referring to the distinctive white ring around the eye; and pallidus from the Latin for “pale”. Thus the name describes a pale bird with a girdled eye.

Orange River-white-eye

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