Robin in the garden.

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NZ’s North Island bush robin, or toutouwai is a small song bird weighing in at about 35 gm (just over an ounce) and up to 18 cm (7 inches) tall. Forest clearance in the 19th and 20th centuries depleted their habitat and numbers and today they are rarely seen where pests like feral cats, possums, stoats and the ubiquitous ship rat aren’t controlled. 

Their numbers increased rapidly in our conservation area and now they are one of the more common varieties in my garden. We even had one inside a couple of weeks ago. I think birds think our house is a tree. In the same week we had a bellbird, (korimako) in the bedroom. 

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Toutouwai spends much of it’s time on the ground foraging for invertebrates. Clever little things use a variety of activities to flush out food, like tail or wing flicking and foot trembling. Males are territorial and quite aggressive towards intruders although they’re not shy to sneak into each other’s territories when it suits them. They tend to dominate their mates outside of breeding season, resulting in divorce – the females shoot through. Good on them for not putting up with that!

Hear a male robin’s territorial song here.

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