Birds of confusion: Silvereyes



In recent weeks we have had a few Silvereyes come to visit our garden. This species is not a regular visitor to our place, and many months can elapse between visits. The bird shown in the photo above visited us several months ago. Since that time I have heard or seen several Silvereyes on four or five occasions. This is the usual colouration for this species here in Murray Bridge.



Just to confuse me, the bird featured in this second photo, and in the third photo below, seems much darker in colour on the back. These two photos were taken in the Newland Head Conservation Park near Victor Harbor, about 80km south of Adelaide. At first glance, they seem to be two quite different species.The difference could be explained by the fact the the first one was taken in full sunlight, while the other two were in full shade. But things are not as simple as that when looking at Silvereyes in Australia.

Studying the various fieldguides and HANZAB* the issue is quite confusing with many different races with slight colour variations. I’m not going to confuse the issue further be trying to write about which I know very little.




Silvereyes are found throughout New Zealand, some Pacific Islands, eastern Australia, all of Victoria and Tasmania and southern South Australia and western Australia. Those in Tasmania breed there in summer before migrating in large numbers to the mainland for winter. There is also some significant migration of the species throughout mainland Australia.


Silvereyes prefer most types of vegetation that provide some protective cover. This can include scrubs, shrublands, heath, mangroves, woodlands and forests. They often occur in parks, gardens, orchards and vineyards. I have personally encountered them most often in dense coastal scrubland.


Silvereyes eat a wide variety of fruits and insects, food scraps, flowers and seeds. They can become a pest species in gardens, vineyards and orchards when they eat the fruit. They will forage from the ground up to the canopy of trees. Foraging occurs in small groups through to large, loose flocks.


Silvereyes build a neat, loosely woven nest using spider’s web, grass, bark, twigs, plants stems, moss and fibrous rootlets. When available they will also use wool, horsehair, cotton, string and even cloth. They usually lay three or four eggs (sometimes two) which are oval shaped and pale blue or bluish-green. Breeding has been recorded in all months in Australia but most commonly they breed in spring through summer (September to January). The eggs hatch in about 12 days and the young fledge after about another 12 days.


*HANZAB= Handbook of Australian, New Zealand and Antarctic Birds


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