Dusky robin

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Dusky robin
Melanodryas vittata Bruny.jpg
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Petroicidae
Genus: Melanodryas
Species: M. vittata
Binomial name
Melanodryas vittata
(Quoy & Gaimard, 1830)

The dusky robin (Melanodryas vittata) is a small passerine bird native to Tasmania. A member of the Australian robin family Petroicidae, it is not related to robins of Europe and North America. It is a brown-plumaged bird of open woodland.


The dusky robin was first described by the French naturalists Jean René Constant Quoy and Joseph Paul Gaimard in 1830,[2] and was known for many years as Petroica vittata before being placed in its current genus Melanodryas. Two subspecies are recognised, one on the Tasmanian mainland and one on King Island. 'Stump robin' was a name given it by early settlers from its habit of sitting on stumps or posts.[3] Other local names include 'wood robin' and 'sad robin'.[4]

The Australian robins were classified for a time in the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae or the whistler family Pachycephalidae, before being placed in their own family Petroicidae, or Eopsaltridae.[5] Sibley and Ahlquist's DNA-DNA hybridisation studies placed the robins in a Corvida parvorder comprising many tropical and Australian passerines including pardalotes, fairy-wrens and honeyeaters as well as crows.[6] 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.[7]


Measuring 16–17 cm (6.4-6.8 in) in length, the dusky robin lacks the bright colours of its robin relatives. The male and female are similar in appearance, with greyish- or olive-brown upperparts and narrow white shoulder edge,[8] and white patch on the wing. The throat is white and the underparts a pale brown. The feathers of the tail are brown with white edges. The bill is black, and the eyes and legs brown-black.[9]

Distribution and habitat[edit]

The dusky robin is endemic to Tasmania, where it is widespread. Its preferred habitat is open eucalypt forest and coastal heath.[3]


The breeding season is from July to December, and one or two broods are raised. Placed in a fork in a tree or stump, often a fire-blackened one, the nest is a neat cup-shaped structure made of grass and bark, often only two or three metres above the ground. The clutch consists of two to four pale olive- to blue-green eggs splotched with darker green and brown, and measures 22 mm x 17 mm (0.9 x 0.6 in).[10]


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Melanodryas vittata". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ Quoy, J.R.C. and Gaimard, J.P. in Dumont-d'Urville, J. (1830). Voyage de découvertes de l'Astrolabe exécuté par ordre du Roi, pendant les anneés 1826–1827–1828–1829, sous le commandement de M.J. Dumont-d'Urville. Zoologie. Paris: J. Tastu Vol. 1 i p197
  3. ^ a b Parks & Wildlife Service, Tasmania (7 July 2009). "Dusky Robin, Melanodryas vittata". Nature & Conservation. Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment, Tasmanian Government. Retrieved 12 July 2010. 
  4. ^ Fletcher, J.A. (1924). "Birds of the steppes". Emu. 24 (2): 107–17. doi:10.1071/MU924107. 
  5. ^ Boles, p. 35.
  6. ^ 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. 
  7. ^ 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 503738Freely accessible. PMID 15263073. Retrieved 2008-08-14. 
  8. ^ Watts, Dave (2006) [1999]. Field Guide to Tasmanian Birds (2nd ed.). Frenchs Forest, NSW: New Holland Press. p. 155. ISBN 1-876334-60-6. 
  9. ^ Slater, Peter (1978). A Field Guide to Australian Birds: Passerines. Adelaide: Rigby. p. 172. ISBN 0-85179-813-6. 
  10. ^ Beruldsen, Gordon (2003). Australian Birds: Their Nests and Eggs. Kenmore Hills, Qld: self. p. 337. ISBN 0-646-42798-9.