Saipan White-eye

Saipan White-eye (Zosterops conspicillatus saypani)


A small green and yellow warbler-like forest bird, with bright, olive-green upperparts, a white ring around each eye, and pale yellow underparts.  Massing at on average only 9g, holding a Saipan White-eye in your hand feels more like holding a bumblebee than a bird.

Saipan White-eyes are found only on three very small islands within the Northern Marianas Island chain.  Island species are always particularly vulnerable.  If a new danger threatens their numbers, they have nowhere to escape to; likewise, there is no “neighboring” population of the same species to move in and help balance things out.  So although the Saipan White-eye is currently abundant throughout its range, the recent arrival of the Brown Tree Snake – famous for its role in the extinction of nearly all bird species on Guam – has placed this tiny population in jeopardy.

Hoping to avoid repeating the tragedies of the Guam Rail and Guam Kingfisher, the Marianas Avifauna Conservation Program was established in 2004 with two goals:

  • Establish and maintain human-managed populations of potentially affected bird species, through the generous contributions of space and personnel by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
  • Establish satellite populations of these species on islands in the Marianas Archipelago deemed “safe” from the Brown Tree Snake.

This is a long-term plan, with far-reaching implications – not just for the birds of the Marianas Archipelago, but for birds around the world who might require drastic measures to protect them from extinction.