Tauhou, silver–eye nest

silver-eye's nest

Silver-eye nest from T.H. Potts', Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, Volume 3, 1870.

Tauhou, Silver–eye

The breeding season of the silver-eye extends from September to February. Two or three broods may be raised in a season.

“From examining scores of nests,” Potts says, “we find that out of considerable variety of materials made use of, moss, and grass predominate; the fabric is strong, although frequently slight, in some cases the walls are extremely thin; it is usually suspended, at the sides, by fastenings bound securely over slender twigs; some are almost wholly constructed of grass, amongst which, now and then, may be found a few small tufts of the grey-beard moss, in others the cottony down of plants is neatly interwoven with moss and spider's webs, lined with fibres, or fine stems of grass, sometimes with hair; some nests are quite shallow, others of deep cup-like form in diameter three inches.”

“In gardens, it has been observed placed in a great variety of shrubs, occasionally a rose-bush bordering on a well-frequented walk; never far above the ground, usually from two to six feet.”

“It lays three clear-blue eggs, 18 x 13 mm. The nest and eggs forming as pleasing an object as those of the hedge-sparrow at home.”

Both birds share the work of nest building and incubation. The period of incubation is eleven to twelve days, and the young leave the nest when ten days old. While in the nest, they are fed crushed insects and spiders.

After the breeding season, silver-eyes flock together but may remain paired at the roost, sitting close together like love birds. In late winter they leave to set up territories and first year birds pair up. The pairs remain together year after year and may raise two or three broods every year. The pairs are strongly territorial and are often seen fluttering their wings aggressively at another bird.

According to Oliver, Maori passed over no bird on account of its small size, so the little silver-eye, which soon appeared in immense numbers, was collected and potted. "They are not carefully plucked," writes Esldon Best, "many feathers are left on and they are not cleaned. But that matters not. The hardy Tuhoean bush folk, crunch up the birds, head bones, inside, remaining feathers and all, with great zest."

The method of catching the silver-eye as practised by Tuhoe was as follows, quoting again from Elsdon Best. "Two upright poles about five feet high are stuck in the ground, generally in a clearing near the edge of the forest. Across the top from pole to pole, is fastened a stick called the rongohua and underneath that a cord or piece of flax is tied from pole to pole. This string is the and to it are tied the first few birds caught, generally by the beak. These birds being alive make great efforts to escape, and thus, in their fluttering attract other birds. The fowler, rod in hand, is seated beneath in light shelter of boughs or fern fronds, and strikes down the birds as they flutter about the tau maimoa."


Silver-eye on birdfeeder

Kingdom: Animalia.
Phylum: Chordata.
Class: Aves.
Order: Passeriformes.
Family: Zosteropidae.
Genera: Zosterops.
Species: lateralis.
Sub Species:  
Other common names:  —

white–eye, wax–eye, blight bird

Description:  — 

Native bird

12 cm., 13 g., olive–green, white rings around the eyes, fine tapered bill and a brush tipped tongue for drinking nectar.

Where to find:  — 

Widespread and common.

More Information:  — 

Tauhou, the silver-eye
LINK to Tauhou Main Page

Credit for the photograph: — 

Rosemary Tully

Illustration description: — 

T.H. Potts, Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, Volume 3, 1870.

Reference(s): — 

Heather, B., & Robertson, H., Field Guide to the Birds of New Zealand, 2000.

Olliver, W.R.B., New Zealand Birds, 1955.

T.H. Potts, Transactions of the New Zealand Institute, Volume 2, 1869.

Page date & version: — 

Saturday, 29 July, 2023; ver2023v1