Golden white-eye

Golden white-eye
Cleptornis marchei
Photo by Peter Bonser (Archive)

Common name:
Order Passeriformes
Family Zosteropidae
This species is endemic to the Northern Mariana Islands, occurring on the islands of Saipan and Aguijan.
This large white-eye is 14 cm long and weighs 20 g.

The golden white-eye is mostly found in native forests, particularly limestone forests in the steep slopes and cliffs of the islands, but it also occurs in open scrubland and suburban areas.


It forages predominantly in the foliage of trees, particularly Cynometra ramifolia, feeding on invertebrates, flying insects, nectar, fruit and flowers and also taking insects from tree bark.

The golden white-eye can breed all year round, with a peak in March-July. The species is monogamous, nesting in simple undecorated cups of casuarina needles, grasses, and vines. There the female lays 2 blue-green eggs with brown splotches, which are incubated by both parents for 14 days. The chicks are fed insects and caterpillars by both parents and fledge 10-14 days after hatching.
IUCN status – CR (Critically Endangered)
This species has an extremely restricted breeding range and the global population, currently estimated at 58.000 individuals, is likely to undergo an extremely rapid population decline following the recent establishment of the brown tree snake Boiga irregularis on Saipan. Beside the predation pressure caused by this alien snake, the other main threat facing the species is climate change and the consequent sea-level rise. Conservation measures are under-way, namely controlling the brown tree snake population and capturing golden white-eyes to begin a captive breeding programme and the potential establishiment of new populations on additional islands of the Marianas.

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