White-eyes live in forest edges and canopy, and they frequent bushes in gardens. They occur from sea level (Z. lu-teus is associated with mangroves and coastal vegetation) up to 9,800 ft (3,000 m) of high mountains in Java (Lophozos-terops javanicus). Z. citrinellus and Z. lateralis chlorocephalus live on many wooded coral cays that are too small to support a breeding population of other passerine birds. Other offshore islands are also colonized by white-eyes. In New Zealand, explorers and settlers noticed silvereyes (Z. lateralis) in the South Island in 1832 (Milford Sound) and 1851 (Otago), and eventually large numbers appeared in the North Island in the winter of 1856, when the species, not previously known to the Maori, was given the name tauhou (meaning stranger). This was indeed the Tasmanian race (Z. lateralis lateralis). Half a century later, Dr. Metcalfe of Norfolk Island, who regularly corresponded with the Australian Museum, wrote in 1904 that a new bird had just arrived on Norfolk Island and that he was sending the first two specimens to the museum. It turned out to be the brown-sided Tasmanian race, considered to have colonized there from New Zealand at that time. Today, we know that the Tasmanian race contains both migrants and residents and that migrants do not migrate every year. Occasionally they must also attempt dispersal across the ocean.

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