Orange River White-eye (Zosterops pallidus)

Cover image by Sybrand Venter – Carnarvon District, Northern Cape – BirdPix No. 229235 Orange River White-eye


The Orange River White-eye is the most distinctively marked white-eye in the region. Its most distinguishing feature is the peach-coloured flanks, which are diagnostic. The upperparts are dull olive green. The throat is bright yellow, while the vent is a duller shade of yellow. The broad, white eye-ring is broken by a small black line extending from the base of the beak to the eye. There is a conspicuous yellow supra-loral stripe in front of the eye.

Identification guide to adult Orange River White-eye
Orange River White-Eye (Zosterops pallidus) – Virginia, Free State
Photo by Janet du Plooy

The sexes are alike and the juveniles are similar but with duller plumage.

It is most similar to the Cape White-eye Zosterops virens and the two were once considered conspecific. The Cape White-eye differs in lacking the peach-coloured flanks. It instead has grey to green undersides which contrast with the yellow throat.

Diagnostic peach flanks of the Orange River White-eye
Orange River White-eye (Zosterops pallidus) showing the diagnostic peach flanks.
-Bloemfontein, Free State
Photo by Rick Nuttall

Status and Distribution

The Orange River White-eye is common to very common and is endemic to Southern Africa. Occurs in a broad swathe from northern to southern Namibia. In south Africa it is found in the Western Cape, throughout much of the Northern Cape, most of the Free State and parts of North West Province. It is closely linked to the Orange and Vaal River catchments. In the Northern Cape it occurs mainly along the Orange River and its tributaries but has adapted to towns, gardens and farmyards in the semi-arid Karoo.

SABAP2 distribution map for Zosterops pallidus
SABAP2 distribution map for Orange River White-eye (Zosterops pallidus) – February 2023.
Details for map interpretation can be found here.


The Orange River White-eye is commonly associated with wooded watercourses and drainage lines, where it inhabits thickets with trees and thorny scrub. It is frequent in wooded gardens, parks and towns, favouring poplar (Populus spp) groves, Eucalyptus plantations and rose gardens.

Orange River White-eye Zosterops pallidus
Orange River White-Eye (Zosterops pallidus) – Reynekepark, Free State
Photo by Marius Meiring


The Orange River White-eye is restless and elusive, moving in small flocks through the foliage. When one area has been gleaned of food, the leader flits to another tree and the remaining flock members follow in ones and twos. Probes in crevices and under bark, and peers under leaves, twigs and branches. Sometimes hangs upside down from a branch to reach food. Most insects are gleaned from leaf surfaces. Reported to mingle with parties of Cape White-eye at some sites. Frequently allopreens.

The diet consists mainly of invertebrates and fruit. Frequently eats hard, dry currant (Searsia spp) berries; these plants are well represented in riverine vegetation throughout its range.

Orange River White-eye in a garden
The Orange River White-Eye (Zosterops pallidus) is a common garden bird across its range
Kimberley, Northern Cape
Photo by Doug Harebottle

Little is known about the breeding habits of this species. They are likely to be monogamous and solitary nesters. They are known to breed during the summer months. Eggs laying has been recorded from October to March. A typical clutch consists of 3 unmarked blue eggs, however, incubation, nestling and fledging periods are unrecorded. Nesting data is probably similar to that of the Cape White-eye (Zosterops virens).

Zosterops pallidus
Orange River White-Eye (Zosterops pallidus) – Bloemfontein, Free State
Photo by Rick Nuttall

Further Resources

Species text adapted from the first Southern African Bird Atlas Project (SABAP1), 1997.

The use of photographs by Doug Harebottle, Janet du Plooy, Marius Meiring, Rick Nuttall, Sybrand Venter and Toby Esplin is acknowledged.

Virtual Museum (BirdPix > Search VM > By Scientific or Common Name).

Other common names: Gariepglasogie (Afrikaans); Manqiti (Tswana); Zostérops du fleuve Orange (French); Kaapse Brilvogel (Dutch).

Recommended citation format: Tippett RM 2023. Orange River White-Eye Zosterops pallidus. Biodiversity and Development Institute. Available online at

Bird identificationbirding

Orange River White-eye being ringed
Orange River White-Eye (Zosterops pallidus) – Near Wesselsbron, Free State
Photo by Toby Esplin
Ryan Tippett
Ryan Tippett
Ryan is an enthusiastic contributor to Citizen Science and has added many important and interesting records of fauna and flora. He has been a member of the Virtual Museum since 2014 and has currently submitted over 12,000 records. He is on the expert identification panel for the OdonataMAP project. Ryan is a well-qualified and experienced Field Guide, and Guide Training Instructor. He has spent the last 18 years in the guiding and tourism industries. Ryan loves imparting his passion and knowledge onto others, and it is this that drew him into guide training in particular. Something that he finds incredibly rewarding is seeing how people he's had the privilege of teaching have developed and gone on to greater things. His interests are diverse and include Dragonflies, Birding, Arachnids, Amphibians, wild flowers and succulents, free diving and experiencing big game on foot. With this range of interests, there is always likely be something special just around the corner!