Red-capped Robin

Did you know?

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.

Calls
Males sing with characteristic dry, repeated trill: 'dit-dit-drr-it'. Both sexes have a 'tick' call.
Facts and Figures
Research Species: 
No
Average size: 
12cm
Average weight: 
9g
Breeding season: 
June to January
Clutch Size: 
Two or three; occasionally one, rarely four.
Incubation: 
13 days
Nestling Period: 
14 days
Conservation Status
Federal: 
NSW: 
NT: 
QLD: 
SA: 
VIC: 
WA: 
Basic Information
Scientific Name: 
Featured bird groups: 
Atlas Number: 
381
What does it look like?
Description: 

The male Red-capped Robin is black above and white below with a distinctive scarlet-red cap, white shoulders, and a red breast that contrasts strongly with a black throat. The black wing is barred white and the tail is black with white edges. Females are quite different in appearance: grey-brown above and off-white below, with a reddish cap, brown-black wings barred buff to white, and some have faint red on the breast. Young birds are similar to females but are streaked white above, have an pale buff wing bar and their breast and sides are streaked or mottled dark-brown.

Similar species: 

The Red-capped Robin is the smallest red robin. It can be distinguished from other red robins by the unique red cap in the male, and by the dull red cap in the female. Males are similar to the Crimson Chat, Epthianura tricolor, but this species has a white throat, a white eye, is not as plump and lacks the white wing streak.

Where does it live?
Distribution: 

The Red-capped Robin is 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.

Habitat: 

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.

Seasonal movements: 

Partial seasonal migrant, moving to more open areas in winter, usually in south of range.

What does it do?
Feeding: 

The Red-capped Robin feeds on insects and other invertebrates. It forages on the ground or in low vegetation, and will often perch on a stump or fallen branch, darting down to take insects from the ground. Can be seen in mixed feeding flocks with other small insect-eating birds such as Willie Wagtails, Rufous Whistlers and Black-faced Woodswallows.

Breeding: 

Red-capped Robins breed in pairs within a breeding territory established and defended by the male. The male sings from perches around the boundary of the territory to deter other Red-capped Robins and also other robin species, such as the Scarlet Robin, P. multicolor. The female chooses a nest site in a tree-fork and builds an open, cup-shaped nest of bark, grass, and rootlets, bound together with spider web, lined with soft materials and often camoflaged with lichen, bark and mosses. The male feeds the female during nest-building and incubation. The female incubates the eggs alone and both sexes feed the young. Once the young have fledged, they may remain in their parents' territories for up to one and a half months before dispersing. Nests may be parasitised by cuckoos. Predators of nestlings include the Grey Shrike-thrush, Colluricincla harmonica, and the Grey Butcherbird, Craticus torquatus.

Research by the Australian Museum (Major et al., 1999)  has shown that male Red-capped Robin density is much lower in small, linear bushland remnants than in large non-linear remnants. The small remnants represented a higher risk of predation, making them much less suitable as breeding habitat.

Living with us

Populations of Red-capped Robins have declined in many places as a result of land-clearing and habitat loss. Some areas that have experienced significant declines include: the Cumberland Plain Woodland of the Sydney Basin, Rottnest Island and the wheatbelt, Western Australia, and around Rockhampton, Queensland, where the local population has disappeared.

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