Silvereye
PHOTO: JJ Harrison | Creative Commons

Introduction

The silvereye – also known as the wax-eye, or sometimes white eye – is a small and friendly olive green forest bird with white rings around its eyes.

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis) were self introduced in the 1800s and now have a wide distribution throughout New Zealand. They have made the forest their home and are now among the most common bird in suburbia too. 

Facts

The silvereye has a wide distribution throughout New Zealand. They can be found from sea level to above the tree line but they are not abundant in deep forest or open grassland.

Slightly smaller than a sparrow, the silvereye is olive-green with a ring of white feathers around the eye.

Males have slightly brighter plumage than females. They have a fine tapered bill and a brush tipped tongue like the tui and bellbird.

Silvereyes mainly eat insects, fruit and nectar.

The silvereye was first recorded in New Zealand in 1832 and since there is no evidence that it was artificially introduced, it is classified as a native species. Its Māori name, tauhou, means 'stranger' or more literally 'new arrival'.

Sound recording

Silvereye/wax-eye song (MP3, 2,721K)
02:53 – Song at Apple Valley Road, west of Nelson.

Bird songs may be reused according to our copyright terms.

Silvereye. Photo: © Sabine Bernert.
The silvereye is a small olive green forest bird with white rings around its eyes

Silvereye. Photo: © Rob Scotcher.
Silvereye's mainly eat insects, fruit and nectar

Threats

Cats, rats and stoats are as great an enemy to silvereye as they are to other native birds.

Our work

Silvereye/wax-eye in coprosma. Photo: Rod Morris.
The silvereye's Māori name is tauhou, which means "stranger" or more literally, "new arrival".

Silvereye are not threatened, so DOC doesn't have specific work programme for them.

Of course the work that DOC does in plant and animal pest control increases the quality of whole ecosystems, and therefore contributes to the ongoing success of many common birds, such as the silvereye, as well as ensuring the ongoing survival of our rarer more susceptible species.

DOC priorotises its work to protect the rarer species, in the context of their overall environment. This is encapsulated in the whakatauki (Maori Proverb):

“Tiakina nga manu, ka ora te ngahere Ka ora te ngahere, ka ora nga manu”

“Look after the birds and the forest flourishes. If the forest flourishes, the birds flourish.”

You can help

Emergency hotline

Call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) immediately if you see anyone catching, harming or killing native wildlife. 

Help protect our native birds

When visiting parks, beaches, rivers, and lakes
  • Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep them under control.
  • Check your gear for mice and rats when visiting pest-free islands.
  • Leave nesting birds alone.
  • Use available access ways to get to the beach. 
  • Avoid leaving old fishing lines on beaches or in the sea.
  • Follow the water care code and local navigation bylaws.
  • Don't drive on riverbeds, or keep to formed tracks if you have to.
  • Avoid visiting riverbeds early September to late January when river birds breed.
Other ways to help
  • Get your dog trained in avian awareness.
  • Volunteer with DOC or other groups to control predators and restore bird habitats.
  • Set traps for stoats or rats on your property. Get more information from your local DOC office.
  • Put a bell on your cat's collar, feed it well, and keep it indoors at dusk/dawn and at night.
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