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Black Robin

Petroica traversi (aka Chatham Island Robin)


As its name suggests, this bird has pure black plumage, a black bill, and brownish-black yellow-soled feet. It is about 6 inches long and weighs less than an ounce; females tend to be smaller than males.

Black Robin

Distribution and Habitat

Black robins are only found on Mangere and Rangatira, two of the Chatham Islands (off the east coast of New Zealand). They live in woody vegetation, under the canopy of trees, and prefer flat areas of the forest with deep litter layers.


Black robins mate for life. Eggs are laid in a hollow tree or tree stump between early October and late December. A second clutch may be laid if the first is unsuccessful. Generally two eggs are laid, but it is sometimes just one, or maybe three. Eggs are creamy in color with purple splotches. The eggs are incubated by the for about 18 days, during which time the male brings her food and aggressively defends both his mate and the nest. Both parents participate in feeding the chicks, which will stay in the nest for about 23 days. The parents will continue to feed and protect the chicks for another 30 days. Black robins have an everage life expectancy of about 4 years in the wild.


Black robins feed on a wide range of insects and worms. They hunt for food during the day and night.

Other Behaviors

Male songs are a simple phrase of 5 to 7 notes. Its call is a high pitched single note.

Black robins are territorial. Males will patrol and defend their areas, and females have been known to chase away other females.

Poor fliers, black robins make short flights from branch to branch but do not fly long distances.

Conservation Status

Once fairly widespread throughout all of the Chatham Islands, black robin numbers began declining after humans, along with their pets and pests, began moving onto the islands. By 1980 there were only five black robins in the world, with just a single breeding pair left. The survival of the species hinged on that last pair. A desperate and innovative management regime was quickly put into action that resulted in a successful population turnaround. As of early 2014, the population stands at around 250, all of whom are descended from the last surviving wild breeding pair. Although the black robin's population is currently stable, it is still considered endangered due to its severely restricted range and limited genetic diversity.

Scientific Classification

phylum Chordata
subphylum Vertebrata
class Aves
order Passeriformes
family Muscicapidae
genus & species Petroica traversi

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The Robinson Library >> Science >> Zoology >> Birds >> Order Passeriformes

This page was last updated on September 25, 2017.