At the beginning of the breeding season, some displays are reported. The bird adopts some postures in order to enhance the white axillaries and the white rump, the latter especially by cocking the tail.
This species builds a small cup-shaped structure attached to twigs in tree, between 1 and 5 metres above the ground.

The Reunion Grey White-eye is resident. Only some altitudinal movements are reported related to nectar availability.

The flight is relatively weak and undulating, due to the short, rounded wings.  

The breeding season takes place between September and December, sometimes to February, with probable peak in October/November.
The Reunion Grey White-eye may sometimes nest in loose, semi-colonial groups. They are not territorial and nest defence has not been observed.
The nest is a small, cup-shaped structure made with fine stems. When it is built among foliage, the nest is covered in green moss, whereas in more exposed areas, it is camouflaged with lichens or dead leaves. It is attached to twigs in tree, between 1 and 5 metres above the ground.

The female lays 2-3 or 2-4 pale blue eggs. The incubation lasts 10-12 days. Some helpers feeding young have been reported. No more information.  

The Reunion Grey White-eye is a restricted-range species. It is described as “common”.
The impacts of modification of the habitat on the size of the population are uncertain, but the polymorphism has probably been affected.
The size of the population is placed in the band 100,000/499,999 mature individuals. The population was estimated at 556,000 individuals in 1967.
The Reunion Grey White-eye is not globally threatened and currently evaluated as Least Concern.   

Fr: Zostérops de Bourbon - Zostérops des Mascareignes
Ang: Reunion Grey White-eye
All: Maskarenenbrillenvogel
Esp: Anteojitos de las Mascareñas
Ita: Occhialino delle Mascarene
Nd: Grijze Réunionbrilvogel
Sd: rostsidig glasögonfågel


Patrick Ingremeau

Dubi Shapiro
Dubi Shapiro Photo Galleries & Dubi Shapiro's Pictures on IBC

Text by Nicole Bouglouan


HANDBOOK OF THE BIRDS OF THE WORLD Vol 13 by Josep del Hoyo-Andrew Elliot-Jordi Sargatal - Lynx Edicions – ISBN: 9788496553453

Birds of Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands Par Roger Safford, Adrian Skerrett, Frank Hawkins – ISBN: 1472924118, 9781472924117- Editeur: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015

OISEAUX DE LA REUNION par Armand Barau - Nicolas Barré - Christian Jouanin - Editions Orphie - ISBN : 2877632636

OISEAUX des ÎLES DE L’OCÉAN INDIEN De Ian Sinclair – Editeur : Penguin Random House South Africa, 2013 – ISBN : 1775840727, 9781775840725 – 263 pages

The Birds of Africa: Volume VIII: The Malagasy Region: Madagascar, Seychelles, Comoros, Mascarenes - Par Roger Safford, Frank Hawkins – ISBN: 1408190494, 9781408190494- Editeur: A&C Black, 2013

Avibase (Denis Lepage)

Birdlife International

HBW Alive

Morphological and plumage colour variation in the Réunion grey white-eye (Aves: Zosterops borbonicus): assessing the role of selection

Extremely reduced dispersal and gene flow in an island bird

Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia


Home page

Page Passeriforme Order

Summary Cards


Reunion Grey White-eye
Zosterops borbonicus

Passeriformes Order – Zosteropidae Family

The Reunion Grey White-eye is endemic to Reunion Island where it frequents woodlands, forests and gardens, up to 2,800 metres of elevation. It feeds on various insects, fruits and nectar, and often forages in groups. It breeds during the southern summer and nests in a cup-shaped structure placed in tree.
This resident species is not currently threatened, but habitat degradation may have some impacts in the future.

The Reunion Grey White-eye is polymorphic, with four distinct colour forms occupying different regions of the island. This is probably the result of the large-scale modification of the natural vegetation on Reunion Island, forcing progressively the bird to change its appearance.

Length: 10-11,5 cm
Weight: M: 7-10 g – F: 7-11 g

The Reunion Grey White-eye lacks the white eyering typical of members of genus Zosterops, but it shows a conspicuous white rump often exposed when the tail is cocked.
The adult has slaty grey or brownish crown, back and upperwing-coverts, whereas rump and uppertail-coverts are white. On the upperwing, the flight-feathers are blackish with narrow, slaty edges. On the uppertail, the rectrices are blackish with grey edges on outer webs and whitish edges on inner webs.

On the underparts, throat to breast is pale grey. Belly is mostly whitish with pale grey wash. Body sides and flanks are ashy grey, but thighs and vent are white with pale grey wash. On the underwing, underwing-coverts and axillaries are white. We can see a conspicuous whitish stripe extending down sides of breast and flanks.

On the head, the crown is slaty grey or brownish. Lores are blackish, sometimes with narrow white line above. The ear-coverts are grey but paler than back. Cheeks and chin are white.
The thin bill is dull grey, with paler base of lower mandible. The eyes are hazel or chestnut, sometimes dull brown. Legs and feet are greyish.

We can find four different plumages:

There is a low proportion of intermediates, and the morphs slightly differ in weight and bill length. The grey morphs are usually slightly larger than the brown morphs.

Male and female are similar.
The juvenile resembles adult, but the very young birds have yellow gape and pale legs and feet.

The Reunion Grey White-eye is endemic to Reunion Island.

The Reunion Grey White-eye is usually found in numerous habitats with trees or shrubs, up to 2,800 metres of elevation, including non-native habitats with exotic plant species, and also gardens at lower elevations. This species is well adapted to orchards, gardens and plantations, and also frequents secondary growths.

The Reunion Grey White-eye gives plaintive “eeee” or “eeee-eeee” while feeding, in order to communicate within the foraging groups. When the bird is excited, it produces rapid series of “chip” notes sometimes followed by “eeeeeee”. The contact call is “plee plee plee”.
The song is a long, elaborate series of loud warbling interspersed with contact calls, sometimes including mimicry and running slightly up and down scale. It is described as “tuutreetertreetruuterrtree…”    

Mimicry occurs mainly during the breeding season and at any time of the day. The bird gives long sequences exactly similar to the imitated species, and short phrases of mimicry are also included in its own distinctive song.

The Reunion Grey White-eye feeds primarily on insects, fruits and nectar. If feeds on several insects species such as hemipteran, grasshoppers and crickets, dragonflies, beetles, caterpillars and small butterflies.
It gleans prey from foliage, forages among flowers, along twigs and on bark. It also probes in rotten wood and on the ground. Flycatching is also reported.

The nectar is taken by probing or sometimes puncturing the base of corollas. Both native and exotic plant species are visited.  
It feeds on fruits mainly during winter. In areas above 2,000 metres, it feeds mainly on buds of Philippia montana, when fruits and insects are not available.
It often forages in groups of 4-10/20 individuals, sometimes more than 200 birds.