Silvereyes: small in stature, big in spirit
They might only grow to about 15 cm tall and weigh only 5-10 g, but these feather friends are certainly have amazing stamina.
Silvereyes can live for up to ten years, which is a long time for such a tiny bird. They can also fly extremely long distances when they migrate at the end of summer. Some even travel all the way from Tasmania right up to southern Queensland. That is over 1,600 km.
Silvereyes are really easy to recognise. As their name suggests, they have a ring of white or silvery feathers in a ring around their eyes. Silvereyes look a little different, depending on where they come from in Australia, but generally they have olive green and grey feathers. Click to learn a little more about where Silvereyes come from and their different colourings.
You can help look after Silvereyes in your Backyard
Flowering trees are a magnet for Silvereyes, so look out for these birds in gardens, parks and even orchards when trees and shrubs are flowering.
They especially love to eat the fruit of the Spreading Flax-Lilly, and the berries of the Beard Heath. Silvereyes in Western Australia nest in the foliage of the Black Coral Pea, which is one of Western Australia's famous ‘upside-down’ flowers.
Silvereyes make their tiny nests about 5 m up in tree forks, so be sure to look carefully before pruning any of your trees between August and February. There might be Silvereye babies or eggs about.
Be a Backyard Buddy
Silvereyes don’t just eat nectar and fruit. They also love a feast of insects, so they are great to have in your garden. In fact, Silvereyes will help to keep a lot of the insects that damage plants under control.
Especially in south eastern areas of Australia, you might not see very many Silvereyes when the weather gets cold. When it starts to get a little chilly in autumn, Silvereyes get together in large flocks and fly to warmer areas for the winter. That means if you live in north eastern New South Wales or southern Queensland, you may be lucky enough to have southern Silvereyes visiting you for the winter.
- The nectar of native trees and bushes.
- Plump, juicy insects and bugs.
- Clean water.
But they don't like:
- Open grasslands or lawn without any trees or bushes to hide in.
- Predators like cats, and birds of prey like hawks.
- Gardens with only a few types of plants. Who does like to eat the same thing every day?
Be a Buddy to Silvereyes
- Offer a feast of bugs and insects by mulching your gardens well and leaving a bit of leaf litter under your trees and bushes. Silvereyes love to eat all of the critters that live in your mulch like earthworms and grubs or up in your trees, like spiders and moths.
- Plant flowering trees that are native to your area. This will attract Silvereyes, but a good supply of local nectar producing flowers will mean they are much less likely to eat any fruit that you want to eat yourself. They also love Figs, Lillipillies, Bluebuerry, Ash and Walking stick Palm, which provide them with shelter and protection too. In Western Australia, they are crazy about the Marri Gum/Port Gregory Gum.
- Give Silvereyes a safe paths to travel around your garden between their treetop homes and the ground. Along with your taller native trees, plant soft shrubs about 1-2 m high, surrounded by bushes the same height that are a bit more spiky and protective. Next add small shrubs for food and shelter, and finally plant mixed native grasses and ground cover so that there are plenty of insects for Silvereyes to eat.
- Keep a bird bath in your garden for Silvereyes to drink and bathe in. It doesn’t need to be something expensive or complicated, Silvereyes won’t mind so long as the water is clean and they are safe from predators while they are visiting. A plastic container of water in a safe place is all they need.
- Letting your cats outside, especially at night. Silvereyes forage for food on the ground in mulch and undergrowth so they sometimes find themselves in the sights of curious cats. You are most likely to see Silvereye babies on the ground with their parents when they are still being fed. It is even more important to keep them safe during this time, as they aren’t able to look after themselves yet. We can see them easily, so cats and other predators will be able to see them too.
- Using pesticides and insecticides. Using these will get rid of some of the Silvereye’s favourite snacks. Silvereyes are great at keeping populations of insects and bugs that do damage to your garden down, so don’t spend money on sprays when you can let the Silvereye do the job for you.
- Letting species of weeds grow berries or flowers in your garden. Silvereyes don’t mind a snack on flowering and fruiting plants that aren’t native to Australia like Privet or Lantana. While eating them doesn’t hurt the birds, they don’t get broken down in digestion either, so they just come out again in someone else’s garden and grow a whole new weed problem there.
- Start collecting spider webs. Together, a mum and dad Silvereye will build a small, neat nest by weaving fine grass and hair, and bind it together with spider webs.
- Get a little bit talkative. Silvereyes are quite chirpy little birds who love nothing more than a bit of a chat with other nearby Silvereyes. Listen to a Silvereye call so you can recognise them in your garden.
- Not all populations of Silvereyes migrate—some stay in Tasmania all year round.
- Migrating Silvereyes mainly travel at night when it is harder for predators to spot them.
- Silvereyes also eat fruit being grown for humans in orchards and yards, but they are most likely to only eat the of ‘human food’ at the edges of an orchard that they can see from their native habitat.
- Watching Silvereyes can be very relaxing. Click to watch a high definition video of Silvereyes.