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Z. palpebrosus egregius, Sri Lanka
Scientific classification Edit this classification
Domain: Eukaryota
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Zosteropidae
Genus: Zosterops
Vigors & Horsfield, 1827
Type species
Motacilla maderaspatana (Malagasy white-eye)
Linnaeus, 1766

See text

Zosterops (meaning "eye-girdle") is a genus of passerine birds containing the typical white-eyes in the white-eye family Zosteropidae. The genus has the largest number of species in the white-eye family. They occur in the Afrotropical, Indomalayan, and Australasian realms. Typical white-eyes have a length of between 8 and 15 cm (3 and 6 in). Their most characteristic feature is a conspicuous white feather ring around the eye, though some species lack it. The species in this group vary in the structural adaptations of the tongue.[1] The Zosterops [griseotinctus] group is an example of a "great speciator" inhabiting a vast area and showing a remarkable morphological differentiation on islands, some of which maybe as close as 2 km (1.2 mi) apart.[2]


The genus Zosterops was introduced by the naturalists Nicholas Vigors and Thomas Horsfield in 1827.[3] The name combines the Ancient Greek words zōstēros "belt" or "girdle" and ōpos "eye".[4] The type species was designated as the Malagasy white-eye by René Lesson in 1828.[5][6]

The results of a series of molecular phylogenetic studies of the Zosteropidae published between 2014 and 2018 prompted a major revision of species limits, in which 10 new genera were introduced. In the reorganisation, the English names of three of the existing genera were replaced.[7][8][9][10][11]

Additionally, a study on Sri Lanka white-eyes (Zosterops ceylonensis) and Indian white-eyes (Zosterops palpebrosus) suggests that the Sri Lanka white-eye is the root species and the origin of all Zosterops species.[12] This raises questions upon the former theory of Southeast Asian origin.


Black-capped white-eye
Z. atricapilla
Mauritius grey white-eye
Zosterops mauritianus).jpg
Mauritius olive white-eye
Zosterops chloronothos).jpg

There are over 100 species in the genus. This includes three species (denoted by a dagger in the list below) that have become extinct since the 16th century.[11]


  1. ^ Moreau, R. E.; Perrins, M.; Hughes, J. T. (1969). "Tongues of the Zosteropidae (white-eyes)". Ardea. 57: 29–47.
  2. ^ Moyle, R. G.; Filardi, C. E.; Smith, C. E.; Diamond, J. (2009). "Explosive Pleistocene diversification and hemispheric expansion of a "great speciator"". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 106 (6): 1863–1868. Bibcode:2009PNAS..106.1863M. doi:10.1073/pnas.0809861105. PMC 2644129. PMID 19181851.
  3. ^ Vigors, Nicholas Aylward; Horsfield, Thomas (1827). "Australian birds in the collection of the Linnean Society; with an attempt at arranging them according to their natural affinities". Transactions of the Linnean Society of London (in English and Latin). 15 (1): 170–334 [234]. doi:10.1111/j.1095-8339.1826.tb00115.x. The title page is dated 1826.
  4. ^ Jobling, James A. (2010). The Helm Dictionary of Scientific Bird Names. London: Christopher Helm. p. 414. ISBN 978-1-4081-2501-4.
  5. ^ Lesson, René P. (1828). Manuel d'ornithologie, ou Description des genres et des principales espèces d'oiseaux (in French). Vol. 1. Paris: Roret. p. 286.
  6. ^ Paynter, Raymond A. Jr, ed. (1986). Check-list of Birds of the World. Vol. 12. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Museum of Comparative Zoology. p. 290.
  7. ^ Cox, S.C.; Prys-Jones, R.P.; Habel, J.C.; Amakobe, B.A.; Day, J.J. (2014). "Niche divergence promotes rapid diversification of East African sky island white-eyes (Aves: Zosteropidae)". Molecular Ecology. 23 (16): 4103–4118. doi:10.1111/mec.12840. PMC 4255762. PMID 24954273.
  8. ^ Wells, D.R. (2017). "Zosterops white-eyes in continental South-East Asia. 1: proposed refinements to the regional definition of Oriental White-eye Z. palpebrosus". Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. 137 (2): 100–109. doi:10.25226/bboc.v137i2.2017.a12.
  9. ^ Wells, D.R. (2017). "Zosterops white-eyes in continental South-East Asia. 2: what is Zosterops auriventer Hume?". Bulletin of the British Ornithologists' Club. 137 (2): 110–117. doi:10.25226/bboc.v137i2.2017.a13.
  10. ^ Lim, B.T.M.; Sadanandan, K.R.; Dingle, C.; Leung, Y.Y.; Prawiradilaga, D.M.; Irham, M.; Ashari, H.; Lee, J.G.H.; Rheindt, F.E. (2018). "Molecular evidence suggests radical revision of species limits in the great speciator white‑eye genus Zosterops". Journal of Ornithology. 160: 1–16. doi:10.1007/s10336-018-1583-7. S2CID 254162519.
  11. ^ a b Gill, Frank; Donsker, David; Rasmussen, Pamela, eds. (July 2021). "Sylviid babblers, parrotbills, white-eyes". IOC World Bird List Version 11.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 8 September 2021.
  12. ^ Wickramasinghe, Nelum; Robin, V. V.; Ramakrishnan, Uma; Reddy, Sushma; Seneviratne, Sampath S. (2017). "Non-sister Sri Lankan white-eyes (genus Zosterops) are a result of independent colonizations". PLOS ONE. 12 (8): e0181441. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0181441. PMC 5549887. PMID 28792950.
  13. ^ a b c d "Species Updates – IOC World Bird List". Retrieved 2021-05-28.
  14. ^ Anderson, Natali (2022-10-21). "Newly-Described Bird Species is Endemic to Indonesian Island | Sci.News". Sci.News: Breaking Science News. Retrieved 2022-10-22.
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