Anatomy of a nest: Oriental White-eye

on 9th March 2007


This is the nest that the pair of Oriental White-eyes (Zosterops palpebrosus) built in Yen Lau’s potted Australian Bottlebrush (Callistemon rigidus) plant in December 2006-January 2007 (above left). The nest on the right is that of July 2006.

The current nest is a small and extremely flimsy, cup-shaped, asymmetrical nest. Circular in outline, the nest has a diameter of 65 mm and depth of 45 mm. The cup diameter is 55 mm and cup depth 35 mm.

The nest is sited about 2 metres up the potted plant. It is attached at three points to three very slender (3 mm) branches of the bottlebrush plant with the help of what looks like spider web or its cocoon silk (above). These pieces of silk are also found scattered on the outer surface of the nest.

The outer layer of the nest is woven from narrow strips of vegetable matters, probably grass leaves, a few strips of transparent raffia with a few bottlebrush leaves incorporated. The inner lining is made up mostly of very fine, black and shiny ‘stem’ pieces that are loosely placed around, not carefully weaved or even crudely interlocked.


The base of the nest is extra flimsy and see-through. Looking into the nest, it is possible to see through it (top right). Thus it was possible to see the eggs while the nest was still attached to the potted tree. The image at bottom right shows the rather asymmetrical nest as seen from below.

The nest diameter of the earlier nesting on July 2006 is 56 mm and depth 42 mm. The cup diameter is 42 mm. The nest is quite symmetrical. There are a lot of single strand silk, probably spider cocoon silk and larger blobs of probably spider’s web. The basal part has mosses incorporated. The nest lining is of fine fibre.

It would appear that the nest dimensions are slightly larger in the later nest. However, the earlier nest has more materials and appear stronger. Although the difference between the outer and inner diameter is about the same, the rim of the later nest is as thick as before but the nest wall proper is made up of less materials.

The conclusion by Yen Lau that the birds were not able to get enough nesting materials for their year-end nest is further confirmed.

Input by YC, nest provided by Yen Lau through the good office of KC Tsang. Images by YC except top right by KC.

If you like this post please tap on the Like button at the left bottom of page. Any views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors/contributors, and are not endorsed by the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM, NUS) or its affiliated institutions. Readers are encouraged to use their discretion before making any decisions or judgements based on the information presented.

YC Wee

Dr Wee played a significant role as a green advocate in Singapore through his extensive involvement in various organizations and committees: as Secretary and Chairman for the Malayan Nature Society (Singapore Branch), and with the Nature Society (Singapore) as founding President (1978-1995). He has also served in the Nature Reserve Board (1987-1989), Nature Reserves Committee (1990-1996), National Council on the Environment/Singapore Environment Council (1992-1996), Work-Group on Nature Conservation (1992) and Inter-Varsity Council on the Environment (1995-1997). He is Patron of the Singapore Gardening Society and was appointed Honorary Museum Associate of the Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum (LKCNHM) in 2012. In 2005, Dr Wee started the Bird Ecology Study Group. With more than 6,000 entries, the website has become a valuable resource consulted by students, birdwatchers and researchers locally and internationally. The views and opinions expressed in this article are his own, and do not represent those of LKCNHM, the National University of Singapore or its affiliated institutions.

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