It is one of two species within the genus Heteromyias. Previously it and the grey-headed robin from Australia were treated as one species and known as Heteromyias albispecularis. It has also been classified within the genus Poecilodryas. Described by Italian naturalist Tommaso Salvadori in 1874, the ashy robin is a member of the Australasian robin family Petroicidae. Sibley and Ahlquist's DNA-DNA hybridisation studies placed this group in a Corvida parvorder comprising many tropical and Australian passerines including pardalotes, fairy-wrens, honeyeaters and crows. However, subsequent molecular research (and current consensus) places the robins as a very early offshoot of the Passerida (or "advanced" songbirds), within the songbird lineage.
Measuring 15 to 18 cm (6–7.5 in), the ashy robin is a large and solidly built robin. It has a sooty black head and cheeks with a white stripe extending backwards and upwards from the eyes. It has a white throat darkening to buff underparts and olive-brown upperparts. There is a white patch on the otherwise dark-plumaged wing. The bill is grey-black, the eyes are dark brown, and the legs pale pink.
Distribution and habitat
The ashy robin is found along the central mountain range across New Guinea (in both West Papua and Papua New Guinea) from 1400 to 2600 m (4500–8000 ft). Within the rainforest it is found singly or occasionally in pairs in the understory or on the ground.
It is insectivorous, and hunts by gleaning or snatching, often on the ground. Among its prey are ants, beetles, phasmids, centipedes and earthworms.
The nest is a shallow cup made of bark, grass, twigs and dry leaves. Spider webs are used for binding or filling. The nest is generally placed in cover 1–3 m (3–7 ft) above the ground. The clutch consists of a single cream- or olive-white egg, marked with light brown or mauve splotches and spots, usually concentrated around the large end, and measure 24 by 20 mm in size.
- BirdLife International (2012). "Heteromyias albispecularis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2012.1. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 16 July 2012.
- Sibley CG, Ahlquist JE (1990). Phylogeny and Classification of Birds: A Study in Molecular Evolution. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. pp. 603, 610–27. ISBN 0-300-04085-7.
- Barker, F. Keith; Cibois, Alice; Schikler, Peter A.; Feinstein, Julie & Cracraft, Joel (2004). PDF fulltext "Phylogeny and diversification of the largest avian radiation" (PDF). PNAS 101 (30): 11040–45. doi:10.1073/pnas.0401892101. PMC 503738. PMID 15263073. Retrieved 2008-08-14.
- Coates, Brian J. (1990). The Birds of Papua New Guinea. Volume II. Queensland: Dove Publications. pp. 189–90. ISBN 978-0-9590257-1-2. OCLC 153651608.