Fledging of a Cape White Eye

The Cape white eye (Zosterops virens capensis) is a small sociable, passerine (term referring to the arrangement of its toes, three facing forward and one facing backwards, facilitating perching) bird common across most of South Africa. They build small but deep, cup-shaped nests for between two and four eggs (Sinclair & Ryan 2009). The white eyes of our garden, along with several other bird species, have the good fortune of being able to lavish their nests with the most luxurious of materials, the soft white fur of a husky. After an extensive brushing session in the garden, resulting in enough fur to coat another dog, I have often seen these little birds swooping down from the surrounding trees and chancing the openness of the garden to hop around and collect beakfuls of fur.

Fur Collection

Fur Collection

I have always wondered what happens after the fur is collected and recently I was lucky enough to have an exclusive vantage point from which to view the succession of newly-hatched to fledgling. A pair of these birds decided to build their nest, in line with our balcony, in the canopy of our 6 m fiddlewood tree (Citharexylum spinosum). This tree species is a West Indies and Florida native and unfortunately for the new parents, it seems to lose its leaves during November/December (our summer months) leaving them and the pink little mini-me exposed to the sun, predators and the delightful south-easterly winds that make Cape Town so pleasant at that time of year. The out of season leaf loss also left the new little family exposed to the clicking cameras of the paparazzi…


The luxurious husky fur-lined nest

I was first alerted to their presence by the flurry of action in the tree after the nest was built and then later by the incessant calling of the parents returning from picking up take-out. Only one chick was ever visible and for five days I followed the little dude’s development.


Parent on nest duty


First glimpse of the other nest occupant


Quite a demanding little dude!!

He spent most of his day chilling in his fur-lined crib and had quite the voice on him when a parent was in the vicinity. They would bring him berries throughout the day from the mirror tree (Coprosma repens) on the other side of the garden.


Dinner Time!

Once flight became an option, the nest was merely a bed for the night as he would spend most of the day hopping down the branches of the tree and testing his newly-feathered wings…


That’s attitude right there!

The feeding continued at various spots around the garden for another couple of days…


Food on the go


Flexing those wing muscles

The last time he was spotted, he was sheltering from the raging south-easter deep inside the plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) hedge in the middle of the garden. I like to think that he is now one of the many little chirping white eyes that dart around our garden and wash themselves in the bird baths.


Last place of refuge was in the dense foliage of the plumbago

Explore. Dream. Discover.

Sinclair I & Ryan P. 2009. Complete Photographic Field Guide: Birds of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik Nature.

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