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.


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.


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.

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


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.

Our 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

Protect our native birds

  • Volunteer with DOC or other groups to control predators and restore bird habitats.
  • Don’t throw rubbish into water ways or storm drains.
  • Set traps for stoats or rats on your property. Get more information from your local DOC office.
  • Put a bell on your cat's collar. Feed your cat well, and keep it indoors at night.
  • Plant a range of native plants that provide food year-round to encourage birds into your garden.
When visiting parks and beaches
  • Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep your dog under control.
  • Prevent the spread of pests. Check your gear for mice and rats when visiting pest-free islands.
  • Use available access ways to get to the beach. Stay out of fenced-off areas. Leave nesting shore birds alone.
  • Get your dog trained in avian awareness, and help save forest birds like kiwi and weka.
  • Follow the water care code. Keep water craft speed to 5 knots within 200 metres of the shore to avoid disturbing birds that nest there.
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