Stewart Island robin
Image: Sabine Bernert | ©


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.

New Zealand status: Endemic
Conservation status: At Risk–Declining
Found in: Forests with dense, even, canopies and ground covered with leaf litter
Threats: Habitat loss, predation  

Sound recordings:

New Zealand robin/toutouwai song (MP3, 1,440K)
01:22 New Zealand robin song at Kowhai River, Kaikouras, Marlborough.

North Island robin/toutouwai song (MP3 1,553K)
01:38 – North Island robin song.

Species information: North Island robin, South Island robin on NZ Birds Online

Did you know?

To attract a female, bachelors will sing a song lasting up to 30 minutes!

New Zealand robin conservation

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.

New Zealand robins are relatively long-lived, for small forest birds. The average lifespan for the species is expected to be 4 to 5 years, although they may survive up to 17 years where intensive predator control is undertaken.

Predator control

Introduced predators, particular ships rats, possums, stoats and feral cats continue to impact robin populations. They take many eggs, nestlings and recent fledglings. In addition, because females carry out all incubation and chick-brooding duties, a significant proportion are killed at night by introduced predators.

Pest control work in areas where robins live, has not only improved the overall forest health, but also helped robin populations. It is only on predator-free islands, in predator-free fenced sanctuaries, or sites where introduced predators are controlled to low numbers that healthy populations of robins exist.

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


DOC has helped trusts and community groups to establish robins at several sites. This is partly to enable people interested in New Zealand’s birdlife to see and hear this interesting species. The robin's trusting nature makes it a favourite with people because they can get close to the bird unlike other native birds.

Since 1991, North Island robin populations have been established on several predator-free islands (Mokoia, Tiritiri Matangi, Tuhua, Matiu/Somes, Mana, Moturoa) and several mainland sites which are encircled by predator-proof fences (Karori Sanctuary, Bushy Park Reserve).


There are several characteristics of the robin’s nature that make it a very tractable species for monitoring:

  • They can be caught by a variety of methods
  • Have relatively long legs and so colour-bands can be readily seen
  • Will approach researchers for a small food (mealworms) handout
  • Their nests can be readily found and monitored without the birds abandoning them.

This has enabled the survival of individuals and nesting attempts to be monitored by DOC staff to determine the effectiveness of predator control operations. 

Toutouwai - Robin's Return project

North Island robin/toutouwai have been returned to Moehau in the northern Coromandel Peninsula as part of the 'Toutouwai - Robin's Return' project. The aim was to create a self-sustaining population of North Island robin and return the bird to part of their former home.

You can help

Fence forest blocks to prevent them being grazed by stock. This will enhance their value to robins and other native fauna.

Control predators (possums, feral cats, rats and stoats) by trapping and poisoning. By controlling these predators to low numbers, robins can breed much more successfully than otherwise (70% compared to 20%). As a result, within the first year of such a pest control operation, the robin population often doubles in number, and most males are able to obtain a mate.

Emergency hotline

Call 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) immediately if you see anyone catching, harming or killing native wildlife.

On your property

  • Trap predators on your property.
  • Be a responsible cat owner.

In your community

  • Find and volunteer with your local community group 
  • Trap predators in your community
  • Get kids or schools involved

See Predator Free 2050 Trust - get involved for information.

Visiting parks, beaches, rivers, and lakes

  • Leave nesting birds alone.
  • Use available access ways to get to the beach. 
  • Avoid leaving old fishing lines in the water.
  • Follow the water care code and local navigation bylaws.
  • Do not drive on riverbeds, or keep to formed tracks if you have to.
  • Check for pests if visiting pest-free islands.

With your dog

  • Only take dogs to areas that allow them, and keep them under control.
  • If you come across wildlife put your dog on a lead and lead it away. 
  • Warn other dog owners at the location.
  • Notify DOC if you see wildlife being harassed by people or dogs.
  • Get your dog trained in avian awareness.
  • Learn about the Lead the Way programme which encourages dog owners to become wildlife wise and know how to act to protect coastal wildlife.

Specific ways to keep wildlife safe while with your dog on beaches.

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