Australasian robin

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Petroica boodang male - Knocklofty.jpg
Scarlet robin, Knocklofty Reserve, Hobart, Tasmania
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Infraorder: Passerides
Family: Petroicidae
Mathews, 1920

See text.

Petroicidae distribution.png
Global range (In red)

The bird family Petroicidae includes 51 species in 19 genera. All are endemic to Australasia: New Guinea, Australia, New Zealand and numerous Pacific Islands as far east as Samoa. For want of an accurate common name, the family is often called the Australasian robins. Within the family species are known variously as robins, scrub-robins and flyrobins. They are only distantly related to the European robin of Europe, north Africa and western Asia, a member of family Muscicapidae.


Most species have a compact build with a large, rounded head, a short, straight bill, and rounded wingtips. They occupy a wide range of wooded habitats, from subalpine to tropical rainforest, and mangrove swamps to semi-arid scrubland. All are primarily insectivorous, although a few supplement their diet with seeds. Hunting is mostly by perch and pounce, a favoured tactic being to cling sideways onto a treetrunk and scan the ground below without moving.

Social organisation is usually centered on long-term pair-bonds and small family groups. Most members of the subfamily Eopsaltrinae practice cooperative breeding, with all family members helping defend a territory and feed nestlings.

Nests are cup-shaped, usually constructed by the female, and often placed in a vertical fork of a tree or shrub. Many species are expert at adding moss, bark or lichen to the outside of the nest as camouflage, making it very difficult to spot, even when it is in a seemingly prominent location.


Although named after true robins, the Australian robins, along with many other insect-eating birds, were originally classified as flycatchers in a huge family Muscicapidae.[1] They were also classified for a time in the whistler family Pachycephalidae, before being placed in their own family Petroicidae, or Eopsaltridae.[2]

The family Petroicidae is a member of the infraorder Passerides which also includes the parvorders Sylviida, Muscicapida and Passerida.[3] It is most closely related to the families Eupetidae (Rail-babbler), Chaetopidae (Rockjumper) and Picathartidae (Rockfowl).[4]


A comprehensive review, including an analysis of the osteological characters, by Schodde and Mason in 1999 illustrated three groupings, classified as subfamilies below:[5] Testing of mitochondrial and nuclear DNA revealed some changes, and proposed sinking of Tregellasia into Eopsaltria as the white-breasted robin's closest relatives appear to be the two taxa of Tregellasia.[6]

The family contains 51 species divided into 19 genera and 6 subfamilies:[7][8]


























Relationship between the genera[8]


  1. ^ Boles, p. xv
  2. ^ Boles, p. 35.
  3. ^ Dickinson, E.C.; Christidis, L., eds. (2014). The Howard & Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World. Vol. 2: Passerines (4th ed.). Eastbourne, UK: Aves Press. pp. xxxvii–xxxiv. ISBN 978-0-9568611-2-2.
  4. ^ Oliveros, C.H.; et al. (2019). "Earth history and the passerine superradiation". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 116 (16): 7916–7925. doi:10.1073/pnas.1813206116. PMC 6475423. PMID 30936315.
  5. ^ Schodde R, Mason IJ (1999). The Directory of Australian Birds : Passerines. A Taxonomic and Zoogeographic Atlas of the Biodiversity of Birds in Australia and its Territories. Collingwood, Australia: CSIRO Publishing. ISBN 0-643-06456-7.
  6. ^ Loynes, Kate; Joseph, Leo; Keogh, J. Scott (2009). "Multi-locus phylogeny clarifies the systematics of the Australo-Papuan robins (Family Petroicidae, Passeriformes)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 53 (1): 212–19. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2009.05.012. PMID 19463962.
  7. ^ Gill, Frank; Donsker, David, eds. (2019). "Australasian robins, rockfowl, rockjumpers, Rail-babbler". World Bird List Version 9.2. International Ornithologists' Union. Retrieved 15 June 2019.
  8. ^ a b Christidis, L.; Irestedt, M.; Rowe, D.; Boles, W.E.; Norman, J.A. (2011). "Mitochondrial and nuclear DNA phylogenies reveal a complex evolutionary history in the Australasian robins (Passeriformes: Petroicidae)". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 61 (3): 726–738. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2011.08.014. PMID 21867765.


  • Boles, Walter E. (1988). The Robins and Flycatchers of Australia. Sydney: Angus & Robertson. ISBN 0-207-15400-7.

Further reading[edit]

  • Del Hoyo, J.; Elliot, A. & Christie D. (editors). (2007). Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 12: Picathartes to Tits and Chickadees. Lynx Edicions. ISBN 978-84-96553-42-2
  • Mathews, G. M. (1920): The Birds of Australia Vol. VIII, No. 4.
  • Miller, Hilary C.; Lambert, David M. (2006). "A molecular phylogeny of New Zealand's Petroica (Aves: Petroicidae) species based on mitochondrial DNA sequences". Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution. 40 (3): 844–855. doi:10.1016/j.ympev.2006.04.012. PMID 16750641.

External links[edit]