Australian yellow white-eye (Zosterops luteus)

Australian yellow white-eye
IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern LEAST

Top facts

  • Like other white-eyes, the Australian yellow white-eye is named for the conspicuous ring of white feathers around its eye.
  • Male and female Australian yellow white-eyes are greenish-yellow above and bright yellow below, with darker wing and tail feathers.
  • The Australian yellow white-eye eats a variety of insects, as well as seeds, fruit pulp and nectar.
  • The Australian yellow white-eye has a brush-tipped tongue which allows it to lick up nectar.
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Australian yellow white-eye fact file

Australian yellow white-eye description

GenusZosterops (1)

A relatively small bird found only in Australia, the Australian yellow white-eye (Zosterops luteus) has largely yellow to greenish-yellow plumage, grey legs, brown eyes and a grey to blackish beak (2). Like other white-eyes (Zosteropidae species), the Australian yellow white-eye is characterised by the conspicuous ring of tiny white feathers around its eye (3). In this species, the white ring is broken at the front by a blackish stripe between the eye and beak (2).

The upperparts of the Australian yellow white-eye are greenish-yellow, while its underparts are bright yellow with a greenish-grey tinge on the flanks. The tail feathers and the flight feathers of the wings are a darker blackish-brown, edged with olive-yellow (2). Like other white-eye species, the Australian yellow white-eye has a fairly slender, slightly curved beak and rounded wings (3).

The male and female Australian yellow white-eye are similar in appearance (2) (3), while juveniles resemble the adults but are duller in colour (2). Two subspecies of Australian yellow white-eye are recognised, with Zosterops luteus balstoni being slightly greyer above and paler below than Zosterops luteus luteus (2).

The Australian yellow white-eye’s song has been described as a rich, high-pitched, variable phrase, or a series of melodious piping notes. It also calls with a loud, plaintive-sounding ‘mew’ or ‘zee’, or a chirping ‘pleewee… pleewee(2).

Also known as
canary white-eye, golden white-eye, mangrove white-eye, yellow white-eye.
Length: 9.5 - 11 cm (2)
8.4 - 11.3 g (2)

Australian yellow white-eye biology

The Australian yellow white-eye usually lives in small flocks (2) (3), which keep in touch with quiet calls as they forage among trees and bushes (3). Flocks of this species can regularly be seen searching for insects among the foliage or probing flowers for nectar (2) (6). The Australian yellow white-eye feeds on a variety of insects and their larvae, with mosquitoes and midges often being particularly important in its diet. It also takes spiders, molluscs and other small invertebrates, as well as seeds, fruit pulp and nectar (2), which it is able to lick up with its brush-tipped tongue (3).

Breeding in this species is reported to mainly occur between October and March (2), or between December and February in parts of Western Australia, corresponding to the start of the wet season (6). In the Darwin region of the Northern Territory, the Australian yellow white-eye may breed in almost any month, although breeding activity is thought to peak between September and October (2).

The Australian yellow white-eye’s nest is a deep cup of grass, lined with fine roots and bound together with cobwebs, and often with pieces of bark on the outside (2) (3). The nest is built between two twigs (3), usually in the horizontal fork of a mangrove tree overhanging water (2).

The female Australian yellow white-eye typically lays 2 to 3 pale bluish-green or white eggs, which hatch after 9 to 12 days (2). Both the male and female of this species help to incubate the eggs (3). The Australian yellow white-eye chicks leave the nest at 10 to 11 days old (2), and may stay with the adult birds for a further 2 to 3 weeks (3).


Australian yellow white-eye range

As its common name suggests, the Australian yellow white-eye is found only in Australia, where its range is restricted to northern coastal areas (2) (3) (4). It also occurs on some offshore islands (2), including Barrow Island (5).

The subspecies Z. l. luteus is found in coastal parts of northern Australia from the Kimberley District eastwards, and also occurs in an isolated population in eastern Queensland. The other Australian yellow white-eye subspecies, Z. l. balstoni, occurs further west, being found in coastal north-western Australia from Shark Bay to the Kimberley District (2).


Australian yellow white-eye habitat

A strictly coastal species (2), the Australian yellow white-eye mainly inhabits mangrove forest, but can also be found in nearby swamps, Acacia thickets, eucalypt woodland, paperbark (Melaleuca) woodland, vine thickets (2) (3), and even trees and gardens in coastal towns (2). It also lives in vegetation along coastal rivers, and its range can extend for some distance inland along these rivers (2).

Where it occurs on islands which lack mangroves, the Australian yellow white-eye can be found in open woodland and heaths (2).


Australian yellow white-eye status

The Australian yellow white-eye is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Australian yellow white-eye threats

The Australian yellow white-eye has a large range and its population is currently thought to be stable (4). This small bird is generally quite common in mangrove habitats (2) (4), and is not currently believed to be globally threatened (4).


Australian yellow white-eye conservation

No specific conservation measures are currently known to be in place for the Australian yellow white-eye.


Find out more

Find out more about the Australian yellow white-eye and its conservation:

More information on conservation in Australia:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



Flight feathers
The feathers at the end of the wing, involved in flight.
To keep eggs warm so that development is possible.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
A diverse group of invertebrates, mainly marine, that have one or all of the following; a horny, toothed ribbon in the mouth (the radula), a shell covering the upper surface of the body, and a mantle or mantle cavity with a type of gill. Includes snails, slugs, shellfish, octopuses and squid.
A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.


  1. IUCN Red List (April, 2013)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A. and Christie, D. (2008) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 13: Penduline-Tits to Shrikes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Burton, M. and Burton, R. (2002) International Wildlife Encyclopedia. Third Edition. Marshall Cavendish, New York.
  4. BirdLife International - Australian yellow white-eye (April, 2013)
  5. Moro, D. and MacAulay, I. (2010) A Guide to the Birds of Barrow Island. Chevron Australia, Perth. Available at:
  6. Lewis, J. and Macarthur, H. (2011) Timing of breeding and wing moult in the yellow white-eye (Zosterops luteus) near Broome, Western Australia. Western Australian Journal of Ornithology, 3: 13-18.

Image credit

Australian yellow white-eye  
Australian yellow white-eye

© Don Hadden /

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