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
Superfamily: Corvoidea
Family: Petroicidae
Mathews, 1920

See text.

Petroicidae distribution.png
Global range (In red)

The bird family Petroicidae includes 49 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 the species are known not only as robins but as scrub-robins and flycatchers. They are, however, only distantly related to the Old World family Muscicapidae (to which other species with such names belong) and the monarch flycatchers (Monarchidae).


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 relationship of the Petroicidae to other bird families is uncertain; Sibley and Ahlquist's DNA-DNA hybridisation studies placed the Australian robins in a Corvida parvorder comprising many tropical and Australian passerines including pardalotes, fairy-wrens and honeyeaters as well as crows.[3]

In a more recent genetic study, they and several other families came out quite differently. They seem to form a distinct lineage of uncertain relationships, possibly as an early offshoot of Passerida diverging some 44 million years ago. However, all that can be said at present with reasonable certainty is that they are neither core Passerida ("advanced" songbirds) nor a very ancient songbird group.[4]

Acknowledging their position is unclear, current consensus places them as basal Passerida.[5]


A comprehensive review, including an analysis of the osteological characters, by Schodde and Mason in 1999 illustrated three groupings, classified as subfamilies below:[6] 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.[7]

The family contains 49 species divided into 19 genera and 6 subfamilies:[8][9]


























Relationship beween the genera[9]


  1. ^ Boles, p. xv
  2. ^ Boles, p. 35.
  3. ^ Sibley, Charles G.; Ahlquist, Jon Edward (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.
  4. ^ Barker, F. Keith; Cibois, Alice; Schikler, Peter A.; Feinstein, Julie & Cracraft, Joel (2004). "Phylogeny and diversification of the largest avian radiation" (PDF). PNAS. 101 (30): 11040–45. doi:10.1073/pnas.0401892101. PMC 503738. PMID 15263073. Retrieved 14 August 2008.
  5. ^ Christidis L, Boles WE (2008). Systematics and Taxonomy of Australian Birds. Canberra: CSIRO Publishing. p. 175. ISBN 978-0-643-06511-6.
  6. ^ 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.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ 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.
  • 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.

Cited text[edit]

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

External links[edit]