Red-capped Robin

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Image:Redcappedrobin.JPG

Common Name: Red-capped Robin
Scientific Name: Petroica goodenovii

Size: 4-5 inches (10.5-12.5 cm)

Habitat: Australia; Endemic--found from Queensland (rarely above latitude 20°S), through New South Wales, mainly west of the Great Dividing Range, to Victoria and South Australia. Also found in Western Australia in inland regions north to the Pilbara region, rarely being seen on south coast or far south-west. An isolated population occurs on Rottnest Island. Widespread in Northern Territory south of latitude 20°S. The Red-capped Robin will visit areas along the east coast during droughts.

The Red-capped Robin is found in most inland habitats that have tall trees or shrubs, such as eucalypt, acacia and cypress pine woodlands. It is mainly found in the arid and semi-arid zones, south of the Tropics, with some extension into coastal regions. The species is seen on farms with scattered trees, as well as vineyards and orchards. It is only occasionally reported in gardens.

Status: Least Concern. Global population: Unknown. Declining populations. 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.

The feral cat is known to prey on the Red-capped Robin, and several bird species including the Australian Raven (Corvus coronoides), Grey Shrike-thrush (Colluricincla harmonica), Grey Butcherbird (Cracticus torquatus) and White-browed Babbler (Pomatostomus superciliosus) raid nests and take young. There is one record of a Brown-headed Honeyeater (Melithreptus brevirostris) feeding on an egg. Predation is the commonest cause of nest failure.

Diet: Mostly beetles, occasionally ants, spiders, moths and other insects. The Red-capped Robin mostly pounces on prey on the ground, half spreading the wing to flush out insects. Less often, it swoops and catches prey while airborne. It also may prey while perched in low-lying vegetation, almost always less than 3 m (10 ft) above the ground.

Nesting: The breeding season takes place over five months from August to January with up to three broods raised. The male proposes suitable nest sites to the female by rubbing his body over a suitable tree fork, all the while trilling continuously. He may indicate several sites before the female ultimately makes the decision where to build, at which point she constructs the nest alone. 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, and the nest is generally placed in a tree fork or even a mistletoe bush. It may be decorated with lichen and camouflaged to blend in with its surroundings. Two to three dull white eggs tinted bluish, grayish or brownish and splotched with dark grey-brown are laid on consecutive days, measuring 16 mm x 13 mm (0.6 x 0.5 in). Females alone develop brood patches and incubate, although both sexes feed the young. The male will keep lookout either on the nest or perched on a nearby branch, rather than brood while the female is foraging, and parents will feed young and dart off quickly if there are predators in the vicinity. Extra-pair mating and fertilization is fairly common, with 23% of nestlings and 37% of broods having a different father to the one rearing them, and there is some evidence that extra-pair couplings are more likely to produce male birds.

Cool Facts: The female has been reported as being fairly tame, while the male is more wary of human contact.

Both male and female Red-capped Robins respond strongly to playback of their species' song by flying to the source, flitting about in agitation, and sometimes replying with their own song.

Red-capped Robins rarely sit still for long. They dart to the ground flying up to a new vantage point only to duck to the ground again and back up. While perched they often give a quick flick of their tail and wings.

The Red-capped Robin is one of the most brightly colored birds in the Australian desert.


Found in Songbird ReMix Australia Volume II

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