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Red-capped Robin Picture

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The Red-capped Robin (Petroica goodenovii) is a small passerine bird native to Australia. Found in dryer regions across much of the continent, it inhabits scrub and open woodland. Like many brightly coloured robins of the Petroicidae, it is sexually dimorphic. Measuring 10.5"?12.5 cm (4"?5 in) in length, the robin has a small thin black bill and eyes. The male has a distinctive red cap and red breast, with black upperparts, and a black tail with white tips. The underparts and shoulder are white. The female is an undistinguished grey-brown.

The position of the Red-capped Robin and its Australian relatives on the passerine family tree are unclear, although they are unrelated to either the European or American Robin. A predominantly ground-feeding and insectivorous bird, it has receded in some areas from human activity.


Initially thought to be related to flycatchers, the Red-capped Robin was described as Muscicapa goodenovii by Nicholas Aylward Vigors and Thomas Horsfield in 1827, before later transferral to the genus Petroica. The generic name is derived from the Ancient Greek words petro- "rock" and oikos "home", from birds' habits of sitting on rocks. The specific epithet goodenovii honours the Reverend Samuel Goodenough, Bishop of Carlisle and first treasurer of the Linnean Society. It has also been referred to as Redhead, Redcap, Robin Red-breast or Red-throated Robin. Kuburi is a name from the Kimberley.

The Red-capped Robin is one of five red- or pink-breasted species of robin in the genus Petroica; they are colloquially known as "Red Robins" as distinct from the "Yellow Robins" of the genus Eopsaltria. Although named after the European Robin, is not closely related to it or the American Robin. Along with the other Australian robins, it was classified for many years as a member of the old world flycatcher family Muscicapidae, before being placed in the whistler family Pachycephalidae. The robins were also placed in their own family Petroicidae, or Eopsaltridae.

Sibley and Alquist'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. However, subsequent molecular research (and current consensus) places the robins as a very early offshoot of the Passerida ("advanced" songbirds).

Description Female (or immature), SW Queensland

The smallest of the red robins, the Red-capped Robin is 10.5"?12.5 cm (4"?5 in) long with a wingspan of 15"?19.5 cm (6"?8 in), and weigh around 7"?9 g (0.25"?0.31 oz). It has longer legs than other robins. The male has a distinctive scarlet cap and breast. Its upperparts are jet black with white shoulder bars, and its tail black with white tips. The underparts and shoulder are white. All colours are sharply delineated from one another. The female is an undistinguished grey-brown above with a reddish tint to the crown, and paler underneath with dark brown wings and pale buff wing patch. Some females have a reddish tint to the breast. The robin has a small black bill, and dark brown iris and legs. Immature birds resemble the female.

A variety of calls have been recorded, described as 'tinkle' and 'blurt' songs. These are similar across mainland Australia but distinct on Rottnest Island.

Distribution and habitat

The Red-capped Robin is found across Australia except for Tasmania, the Top End and Cape York. Offshore populations exist on Flinders Island in Bass Strait, and Greenly and Pearson Islands off the Eyre Peninsula, as well as Rottnest Island. Its movements are on the whole poorly known. It is sedentary in much the southern parts of its range, although is a spring and summer visitor to the Nullarbor Plain and Adelaide region in South Australia, and central Victoria. It is a winter visitor in the northern parts of its range.

The Red-capped Robin prefers more arid habitat than its relatives, and inhabits dryer areas while the Scarlet Robin occupies wetter forests where they co-occur. Its preferred habitat is dry Acacia, Callitris or mixed scrubland or woodland, dominated by such species as Mulga (Acacia aneura), Georgina Gidgee (Acacia georginae), Raspberry Jam (Acacia acuminata), Black Cypress-pine (Callitris endlicheri), White Cypress-pine (C. columellaris), Slender Cypress-pine (C. preissii) with understory shrubs such as Cassia, hop-bush (Dodonaea), Emu bush (Eremophila) and spinifex (Triodia).

The species has generally fared badly with human change to the landscape. Once common on the Cumberland Plain in Sydney's western suburbs, it has now almost disappeared from the Sydney Basin. It has also disappeared from the vicinity of Rockhampton in Queensland, and declined on Rottnest Island, and in the Wheatbelt region of Western Australia. Field studies in small patches of remnant vegetation indicate reduced survival rates there.

Behaviour Male, Eulo, SW Queensland, Australia

The Red-capped Robin is generally encountered alone or in pairs, although may groups of up to eight birds"?a mated pair and their young"?may be seen in autumn and winter. The species may join mixed species-flocks with other small insectivorous passerines; species recorded include the Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys), Southern Whiteface (Aphelocephala leucopsis), Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris) and Black-faced Woodswallow (Artamus cinereus) in Queensland, or the Chestnut-rumped Thornbill (Acanthiza uropygialis), Buff-rumped Thornbill (A. reguloides) or Inland Thornbill (A. apicalis) in Western Australia.

The Red-capped Robin often perches in a prominent location low to the ground, often flicking its wings and tail. It is very active and doesn't stay still for long at all. The female has been reported as being fairly tame, while the male is more wary of human contact.

The Red-capped Robin is territorial during the breeding season; the area occupied has been measured between 0.25 and 1.2 ha (0.6-3 acres). A pair lives and forages within their territory before dispersing in the autumn. The male proclaims ownership by singing loudly from a suitable perch at the territory boundary, and confronts other males with a harsh scolding call should they make an incursion. Two males have been seen to face off one another 30 cm to 1 m (12-40 in) apart, flicking wings and manoeuvring for position in a threat display while the female is actually incubating. Both sexes also react to the playback of recordings of songs. The male will also defend against incursions by male Scarlet Robins, and conversely avoid foraging in the latter species' territories. Little is known about movement patterns at other times of the year.


The Red-capped Robin mostly pounces on prey on the ground, although can swoop and catch creatures while airborne. Less often, it gleans (takes prey while bird is perched) in low-lying vegetation, almost always less than 3 m (10 ft) above the ground. A low branch may be used as a vantage point in hunting.

The diet consists of insects and other small arthropods. One study of Red-capped Robin faeces conducted near Kambalda, Western Australia revealed 96% of their diet was made up of beetles, while ants made up the remainder. Other prey recorded include spiders, and insects such as grasshoppers including the Australian plague locust (Chortoicetes terminifera), adult and larval butterflies and moths, including Geometer moths, dragonflies and damselflies, Mantises, Antlions, true bugs, earwigs, and flies such as blow-flies and horse-flies.


Breeding season is late winter to early summer with up to three broods raised. The nest is a neat, deep cup made of soft dry grass and bark. Spider webs, feathers and fur are used for binding or filling, generally in a tree fork or even mistletoe. It may be decorated with lichen and camouflaged to blend in with its surroundings. Two to three dull white eggs tinted bluish, greyish or brownish and splotched with dark grey-brown are laid measuring 16 mm x 13 mm. Females alone develop brood patches and incubate, although both sexes feed the young. Hatchlings take two weeks to fledge. The Red-capped Robin may be parasitised by the Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo (Chalcites basalis).

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