The Australian Robins – family Petroicidae are a distinctive group of woodland and forest birds. There are 19 species in all and they can be found in habitats ranging from woodland to mangroves and rainforest. Locally we have five resident species, one migrant (the Flame Robin) and two occasional visitors (Pink and Rose Robins). Two of our residents can be a little confounding to separate in the field – the female Hooded Robin and the Jacky Winter. Both prefer open woodland, with the Jacky Winter also moving into open country on the edge of remnants, especially where native grasses abound.
They are very similar in size, shape and colour and often found together in the same habitat, but there are some subtle differences in behaviour and field marks that keen observers use to tell them apart. The Jacky Winter Microeca fascinans is also known as the Brown Flycatcher – it’s not a true flycatcher but will often hunt by hovering and snatching flying insects amongst grass tussocks. The white outer tail feathers are a ‘give away’ – each and every time a Jacky Winter returns to its perch it shuffles it tail to reveal these feathers.
The female Hooded Robin Melanodryas cucullata lacks the white outer tail feathers, although they are white at the base. Overall they have a sooty, charcoal appearance, with a distinctive white wing-stripe. Hooded Robins often perch in prominent locations, such as tree stumps or low horizontal branches, from where they pounce on unwary insects on the ground.
The male Hooded Robin is unmistakable – stay tuned tomorrow for some shots of this beautiful robin.