Family White-eyes and Yuhinas (Zosteropidae)

Least Concern

Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis)


French: Zostérops à dos gris German: Graumantel-Brillenvogel Spanish: Anteojitos dorsigrís
Other common names: Lord Howe White-eye (tephropleurus)

Sylvia lateralis


, 1801,

Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia


Member of a species group that includes also Z. tenuirostris, Z. albogularis and Z. inornatus. Australian races sometimes grouped into three separate species, differing in plumage characters, size and vocalizations; all mainland forms, however, intergrade via broad zones, and DNA-DNA analysis indicates that neighbouring races are each other’s closest relatives. Lord Howe race tephropleurus sometimes treated as an additional species. In Australia, birds in W previously known as race gouldi, but chloronotus has priority and not preoccupied by “chloronothos”. Recent taxonomic review has led to several changes to previously accepted arrangement: in E Australia, population in N Queensland (S to Mackay region) formerly known as ramsayi (but type description based on intergrade specimens) and those from Mackay region S to E Victoria as familiaris (which appears to comprise two intergrading races), hence N populations of ramsayi now known as race vegetus and S populations along with most of familiaris replaced by name cornwalli; S populations of former familiaris now known as westernensis; S populations (CS South Australia E to SW New South Wales and W Victoria) formerly treated as race halmaturina, but that name invalid (type material seems to represent intergrades between chloronotus and dull birds from SE South Australia), hence birds in E of that range described as pinarochrous; in addition, birds on King I (in Bass Strait), formerly included in nominate, considered to differ sufficiently to warrant racial separation, and thus described as ochrochrous; further research, including genetic analyses, required as a priority to enable better understanding of racial limits. Otherwise, proposed race macmillani (from Tanna, in S Vanuatu) considered synonymous with vatensis. Sixteen subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • Z. l. chloronotus Gould, 1841 – SW & S Western Australia (S from Point Cloates and Shark Bay, and from Wongan Hills) E (S of Nullarbor Plain) to S South Australia.
  • Z. l. vegetus E. J. O. Hartert, 1899 – NE Queensland (E Cape York Peninsula) in NE Australia.
  • Z. l. cornwalli Mathews, 1912 – EC & SE Queensland and NE New South Wales.
  • Z. l. chlorocephalus A. J. Campbell & S. A. White, 1910 – Capricorn Group (notably Heron I) and Bunker Group, in S Great Barrier Reef, off SE Queensland.
  • Z. l. westernensis (Quoy & Gaimard, 1830) – SE New South Wales (from upper Lachlan R) S to E Victoria.
  • Z. l. pinarochrous Schodde & Mason, 1999 – SE South Australia, SW New South Wales and W Victoria.
  • Z. l. tephropleurus Gould, 1855 – Lord Howe I, off E Australia.
  • Z. l. ochrochrous Schodde & Mason, 1999 – King I (W Bass Strait).
  • Z. l. lateralis (Latham, 1801) – Flinders I (Furneaux Group, in E Bass Strait), Tasmania, Norfolk I, New Zealand (both main islands, all smaller adjacent islands) and Chatham Is; non-breeding also SE Australia.
  • Z. l. valuensis Murphy & Mathews, 1929 – Mota Lava, in E Banks Is (in extreme NE Vanuatu).
  • Z. l. tropicus Mees, 1969 – Torres Is, Banks Is (except Mota Lava) and NW Vanuatu (Malo, Espiritu Santo).
  • Z. l. vatensis Tristram, 1879 – C & S Vanuatu (Malakula, Ambrym, Paama, Lopevi, Epi, Emae, Tongariki, Tongoa, Makura, Éfaté, Erromango, Tanna, Aniwa).
  • Z. l. griseonota G. R. Gray, 1859 – New Caledonia.
  • Z. l. nigrescens F. Sarasin, 1913 – Beautemps Beaupré, Ouvéa and Maré, in Loyalty Is.
  • Z. l. melanops G. R. Gray, 1860 – Lifou, in C Loyalty Is.
  • Z. l. flaviceps Peale, 1848 – Fiji Is (main islands and all adjacent smaller islands from Vanua Levu and Taveuni S to Viti Levu and Kadavu; also Koro, Gau and Moala).
  • Nominate race introduced in Society Is and nearby Tubuai Is, and on Lord Howe I.

    Descriptive notes

    12 cm; 9·2–16·9 g. Male nominate race has broad white eyering broken at front by black loral line, this continuing below eyering; top and side of head... read more


    Song, surprisingly loud and melodious, a rapid, loosely organized succession of high-pitched notes... read more


    Found in coastal/subcoastal Australia in most vegetation types so long as at least moderate... read more

    Food and feeding

    Insects, earthworms (Oligochaeta), spiders (Araneae); fruits and softer berries; nectar, and sepals of Feijoa. Also takes... read more


    Sept–Jan in Australia and Aug–Feb in New Zealand and Vanuatu; two or three broods, locally even up to five broods in a season.... read more


    Races on tropical islands more or less sedentary. Otherwise, some races nomadic and/or migratory,... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to abundant throughout most of range. Common and often very abundant in Australia; the only dominant native bird species (5·9–10... read more

    Recommended citation

    van Balen, B. & Christie, D.A. (2020). Silvereye (Zosterops lateralis). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 21 February 2020).