Author: Madre du Plessis

21 December 2011

The Cape White-eye is widespread throughout most of South Africa and is a well-known garden, bush and forest bird that bears descriptive Afrikaans names like Witogie, Glasogie and Meelogie because of the white ring of feathers around its brown eyes.  This tiny creature is heard well before dawn and is reputed to wake the Sparrows up.  Weighing in at 8 to 14 grams, it has a surprisingly loud voice for its size.  If one compares its performance in terms of decibels per gram, it is surely the Vocal Featherweight Champion.

White-eyes are usually seen actively gleaning leaves for tiny insects, often hanging upside down to reach elusive morsels.  The main menu consists of tiny insects, spiders, nectar and fruit.  They are regular visitors to feeding tables and sugar-water (sunbird) feeders.  These restless birds drink and bathe frequently and are often seen at birdbaths, puddles and sprayers, and also bathe in dew on foliage.

Although White-eyes are usually seen in small flocks, during the breeding season they pair off.  Nesting in the Western Cape occurs from April to August and a tiny cup-shaped nest is suspended in the fork of a tree, from 1 to 6 meters above the ground.  Both parents share in the nest-building activity, which takes 5 to 10 days.  Clutches contain two to four eggs, which may be white, pale blue or light green.  Both sexes, which look alike, incubate the clutch for 10 to 14 days.  The minute chicks grow rapidly as they are fed by both parents, and leave the nest after 12 days.  The chick’s white eye-rings develop after 5 weeks.