|Know your wildlife - By Violah Makuvaza|
|Saturday, 18 August 2012 13:37|
The yellow white-eye bird umehlwane, kahwaramesoTHIS is a distinctly beautiful yellow bird with a conspicuous white eye-ring. The Shona name suggests that by having such an eye-ring the bird has an eye problem.
This is rather an ambiguous way of identifying the bird but at least it serves the purpose. It is a common bird throughout Zimbabwe and especially around our residential areas especially on our lemon trees and other flowering plants.
It prefers evergreen and riverine forest woodland, Eucalyptus plantations and gardens.
There are about 80 species of white-eyes and only two are found in southern Africa.
The Cape white-eye is the other species and both their distribution in southern Africa shows that they don’t cohabitat so the Cape white-eye is rarely found in Zimbabwe.
The yellow white-eye is a small bird about 11-12cm long. The iris of its eye is brown.
The bill is warbler-like and black, with a blue grey base.
The bird is bright yellow underneath and faintly washed green across the breast. Both sexes have yellowish green upper parts and the young birds are darker above.
The legs and feet are also blue grey.
Climbing and feeding
The yellow white-eye forages restlessly in foliage from canopy to undergrowth, on branches, at bases of flowers and leaf buds, in brushwood and sometimes on ground, hopping and hanging agilely in all kinds of postures.
They glean prey from leaves and stems, keeping up constant twittering between members of flock.
They also probe or slit tubular flowers for nectar. They feed on insects sometimes by hawking them in flight. They also feed on berries and soft fruits such as figs.
Breeding and nesting
The yellow white-eye are usually found in pairs when breeding. The breeding season is from August to February.
The nest is a small neat cup of fine bark strips, grass blades, tendrils and lichen strands bound externally with fine moss and spider/cob webs.
The nest is slung by rim horizontal fork of leafy shrub, bush or tree 1 to 3,5m above ground.
The yellow white-eye is a host to the Slenderbilled Honeyguide which lays its eggs in the Yellow white eye’s nest. This honeyguide is the only species of honeyguide known to lay any other than white eggs, a development called egg matching which allows it to parasitise builders of open cup-shaped nests.
The yellow white-eye eggs are plain white, pale blue or turquoise in colour and the shell is without gloss. Its clutch size is two to four eggs but usually three eggs. Incubation takes 11 days by both sexes. The chick is naked at hatching with downy plumes above eyes only. The nestling takes 14 days being fed by both parents before leaving the nest.
They are found in larger flocks of up to 20 and also join mixed bird parties. They roost in pairs or threes on tree branches. They drink and bath frequently in streams, birdbath, puddle and dew on foliage. They also walk and hop on the ground.
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l Makuvaza Violah ia an Ornithology Curator at the Natural History Museum of Zimbabwe.