Seeing the Cape White-eyes flitting about the garden on this chilly overcast morning lifted my spirits for they are such lovely looking birds! This one is perched below the blossom of a Cape Honeysuckle. These bright orange flowers are vying for attention all over the garden.
Several years ago I recorded a Cape White-eye that spent about three days reacting to its reflection in the lounge window by chirping and quivering its wings. I noted with interest the way it seemed to puff itself up to deliberately increase its size – each time side-on to its reflection. I usually think of these birds as twittering, almost ‘waxy’ birds happy to be in each other’s company and wonder if this behaviour was a sign of ‘territorial aggression’?
There is plenty of natural food in the garden to sustain these birds throughout the year. I see them foraging in the fig tree, the pompon trees and the Buddleia as well as eating the fruit of the cotoneasters. Now that the aloes are blooming I sometimes see how the Cape White-eyes feed upside down at times to reach the nectar in the succulent-looking aloe spikes. They also tuck into the cut apples I put out and regularly visit the nectar feeder.
I have read that their brush-tipped tongues are ideal for eating nectar but, because their beaks are so short, they pierce the base of long narrow flowers, like the aloes and Erythrina blossoms, to get at it.
On hot days it is fun watching as Cape White-eyes flit through the undergrowth, gradually working their way towards the bird bath for a quick splash. They also seem to enjoy the spray from a garden hose and disappear into the bushes afterwards to dry off.
Sadly they do fall prey to birds such as the Fiscal Shrike and I recently recorded one being eaten by a Fork-tailed Drongo.