Introduction

The New Zealand robin or toutouwai is a sparrow-sized bird found only in New Zealand. They are friendly and trusting, often coming to within a couple of metres of people.

Facts

The New Zealand robin/toutouwai is a sparrow-sized bird found only in New Zealand.

They are friendly and trusting, often coming to within a couple of metres of people. The people themselves are not always the attraction but the invertebrates disturbed by the activities of people.

South Island robin, Wangapeka. Photo: Herb Christophers. DOC use only.
South Island robin, Wangapeka.

The robin’s strong descending call of five or more notes is repeated often and makes their presence obvious.

New Zealand robins are relatively long-lived, surviving up to 14 years where few or no predators exist.

Different species/sub-species

When using the name New Zealand robin you may be referring to:

  • North Island robin (Petroica longipes)
  • South Island robin (Petroica australis australis)
  • Stewart Island robin (Petroica australis rakiura)

They are all New Zealand robins although, strictly speaking, the North Island robin is a completely different species from the other two subspecies.

New Zealand robins are also closely tied genetically with the black robin (Petroica traversi) in the Chatham Islands and also the tomtit.

What do they look like?

South Island robin. Photo copyright Andrew Walmsley. DOC use only.
South Island robin

The North, South and Stewart Island robin all look very similar. They are small - about the size of a sparrow. Males have dark grey plumage while the female is dark grey-brown. Both male and females have much lighter throats and breast feathers. South Island robins have more of a yellow tinge to their breast feathers.

Where are they found?

Robins enjoy forests with dense, even, canopies and ground covered with leaf litter.

They can also be found in the green belts of towns and cities.

What do they eat?

Invertebrates, such as worms and beetles, which they forage for among the leaf litter on the ground.

Breeding

North Island robin with food in beak.
North Island robin with food in beak

The breeding season begins in August or September. Incubation lasts 18 days, and chicks leave the nest after 21 days.

Sound recording

New Zealand robin/toutouwai song (MP3, 1,440K)
1 minute 22 second recording of New Zealand robin/toutouwai song at Kowhai River, Kaikouras, Marlborough.

Tamsin and Andrew of DOC talk about the South Island robin territory identifcation exercise. Photo: Herb Christophers. DOC use only.
Tamsin and Andrew of DOC talk about the
South Island robin territory identifcation exercise

Note: Right-click the song link for options to save. Bird songs may be reused according to our copyright terms. More help on files.

All bird song recordings

Threats

The New Zealand robin is not on IUCN’s list for threatened species.

However, deforestation and habitat loss, as well as introduced predators such as rats, stoats, and feral cats, do threaten the robin.

DOC's work

Pest control work in areas where robins live, has not only improved the overall forest health, but also helped robin populations.

South Island robin showing a distraction display near nest, Kaikoura. Photo: Rod Morris.
South Island robin showing a distraction
display near nest, Kaikoura

These flourishing populations have been used to help repopulate areas where robins may have died out, due to predation by introduced mammals.

You can help

Find out how to attract birds to your garden.

Talk to your local DOC office about getting involved with a pest control operation.

Many community groups throughout the country are involved in such projects that benefit overall forest health and contribute to the wellbeing of all bird species susceptible to mammalian predator attack.


Related link

North Island robin/toutouwai

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