Heuglin's White-eye Zosterops poliogastrus Scientific name definitions

Natalia C. García, Bas van Balen, Josep del Hoyo, Nigel Collar, and Guy M. Kirwan
Version: 2.0 — Published May 20, 2022


Field Identification

A small, sharp-billed bird, about 11–12 cm, with a noticeable white eye-ring and a distinctive yellow forehead and forecrown, contrasting with mustard-green upperparts and variably yellowish (in the southwest part of the range) or grayish-white underparts. All subspecies have a yellow throat and broad white spectacles around the eyes. Found in montane forests and lush gardens and scrub, usually in active groups.

Similar Species Summary

The Abyssinian White-eye (Zosterops abyssinicus) is perhaps the most likely confusion species, and can appear very similar to the nominate subspecies. There are several subtle differences between the two, but bill color (black in Heuglin's White-eye and brownish ivory in Abyssinian White-eye) may be the most obvious difference in field conditions.

Similar Species

In Ethiopia, the Abyssinian White-eye (Zosterops abyssinicus) is one of the main confusion species. Generally, it prefers lower altitudes than Heuglin's White-eye, but when both species co-occur, the nominate subspecies can be difficult to differentiate. Abyssinian White-eye is smaller overall, with grayer upperparts, a paler yellow throat, a brownish bill (not black), and less yellow on forehead. Heuglin's White-eye shows a broader eye-ring; however, this trait can be variable and difficult to discern in field conditions.

In Ethiopia, the yellow-bellied subspecies kaffensis has limited overlap with Northern Yellow White-eye (Zosterops senegalensis) and can usually be separated by a combination of range and altitude (1).

Of all the taxa that were previously considered conspecific with the present species, subspecies Zosterops poliogastrus poliogastrus and Zosterops poliogastrus kulalensis mostly resemble Taita White-eye (Zosterops silvanus) and South Pare White-eye (Zosterops winifredae), as they all have gray flanks and some white or yellowish white in the belly. Taita White-eye can be differentiated by its dark green forehead, greatly reduced yellow on the throat, darker and more extensive gray flanks, and very large eye-ring. South Pare White-eye has a duller and less extensive yellow on and undertail coverts, and shorter wings.

Zosterops poliogastrus kaffensis is more similar to Kikuyu White-eye (Zosterops kikuyuensis), Kilimanjaro White-eye (Zosterops eurycricotus), and Mbulu White-eye (Zosterops mbuluensis), as they all have yellow underparts. Kikuyu White-eye can be differentiated by its much more extensive yellow forehead, deep olive-green flanks, paler yellow throat, and larger eye-ring. Kilimanjaro White-eye has no yellow on forehead , duller yellow throat and belly, and a much larger eye-ring. Mbulu White-eye has an orange-tinged forehead, more golden undertail coverts and also a larger eye-ring.

Recommended Citation

García, N. C., B. van Balen, J. del Hoyo, N. Collar, and G. M. Kirwan (2022). Heuglin's White-eye (Zosterops poliogastrus), version 2.0. In Birds of the World (S. M. Billerman and B. K. Keeney, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.heuwhe2.02