Silvereye
Image: 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 Maori name, tauhou, means 'stranger' or more literally 'new arrival'.

Sound recording

Silvereye/wax-eye song (MP3, 2,721K)
2 minute 53 second recording of silvereye or wax-eye song at Apple Valley Road, west of Nelson.

Note: Right-click the song link for options to save. Bird songs may be reused according to our copyright terms. More help on files.

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

Silvereye. Image: © 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. Image: Rod Morris.
The silvereye's Maori 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

Help protect New Zealand's native birds

  • Volunteer with DOC or other groups to control predators and restore bird habitats.
  • Don’t throw rubbish into water ways or storm drains.
  • 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 night.
  • Plant a range of native plants that provide food year-round to encourage birds into your garden.
When visiting parks and beaches
  • Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep your dog under control.
  • Prevent the spread of pests. Check your gear for mice and rats when visiting pest-free islands.
  • Use available access ways to get to the beach. Stay out of fenced-off areas. Leave nesting shore birds alone.
  • Get your dog trained in avian awareness, and help save forest birds like kiwi and weka.
  • Follow the water care code. Keep water craft speed to 5 knots within 200 metres of the shore.
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