Australian Biological Resources Study

Australian Faunal Directory


Regional Maps

Family ZOSTEROPIDAE Bonaparte, 1853

Compiler and date details

R. Schodde, CSIRO Australian National Wildlife Collection, Canberra, ACT, Australia; updated and upgraded by N.W. Longmore, Museum Victoria, 2006


This large, extended Old World family of small insectivorous birds is widely distributed across Africa, Asia, Australasia and the Pacific Islands (Mees 1957, 1961, 1969; Dickinson 2003). Worldwide the family has some 95 species in 14 genera. The centre of distribution is through Africa and Asia. In Australia, there is one genus for six species with 15 ultrataxa. They are arboreal, many with strong migratory behaviour. One species has, and continues to, extend its range through colonisation of New Zealand and other south-west Pacific Islands.

Some endemicity occurs among Australian taxa — many of the ultrataxa are endemic and occupy restricted ranges. Others are widespread and their migratory habits have been well documented. There is difficulty in actually observing migratory movements as the birds often move at night and then can only be detected through their contact calls. Otherwise one population replaces another as each moves north or south.

The white-eyes are gregarious, occurring in large flocks during migration or when feeding at a concentrated food source. Otherwise small family groups or occasionally single birds are noted. These birds are principally frugivorous causing some damage in agricultural areas; insects and nectar are also taken in copious quantities. Feeding is though gleaning, hang gleaning, probing and snatching actions. They frequent a large variety of habitats including broadleaf thicket and shrubland, wet and dry sclerophyll forests, human habitation, heaths, mangroves (including small tropical islands), woodlands, rainforests and agricultural land.

Nesting occurs during spring and summer. The nests are a small, suspended cup of grasses with occasional inclusions of hair, all bound with cobwebs and placed in shrubs or mangroves. The small eggs number three sometimes four. They vary in base colour from pale to mid blue-green or greenish grey. Some may often be finely dotted with umber.



'In structure of palate and skull however, white-eyes are typically sylvoid (Beecher 1953); ectethmoid wings was well-developed and the foramen a single slit, and, as in acrocephaline but not megalurine sylviids, the clavate tips of the maxillo-palatine processes are thickened and furrowed. Bock (1962) recorded the humeral fossa as double, but in some species it is only incipiently so, as in many sylvioids. Distinctive features in white-eyes are a thick and squarely truncated zygomatic process, and large palatine salivary gland.' (Schodde & Mason 1999).


History of changes

Note that this list may be incomplete for dates prior to September 2013.
Published As part of group Action Date Action Type Compiler(s)
10-Nov-2020 AVES 09-Nov-2020 MODIFIED
12-Feb-2010 (import)