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Dusky robin
Melanodryas vittata Bruny.jpg
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Genus:
Melanodryas
Species:
vittata

The dusky robin (Melanodryas vittata) is a small passerine bird native to Tasmania. A member of the Australian robin family Petroicidae, it is not related to robins of Europe and North America. It is a brown-plumaged bird of open woodland.

Taxonomy

The dusky robin was described by the French zoologists Jean Quoy and Joseph Gaimard in 1832 based on a specimen that the authors mistakenly believed had been collected in "le port du Roi-Georges, à la Nouvelle-Hollande", but that had actually come from Tasmania. They coined the binomial name, Muscicapa vittata. It was known for many years as Petroica vittata before being placed in its current genus Melanodryas. Two subspecies are recognised, one on the Tasmanian mainland and the other on King Island. 'Stump robin' was a name given to it by early settlers from its habit of sitting on stumps or posts. Other local names include 'wood robin' and 'sad robin'.

The Australian robins were classified for a time in the Old World flycatcher family Muscicapidae or the whistler family Pachycephalidae, before being placed in their own family Petroicidae, or Eopsaltridae. Sibley and Ahlquist's DNA-DNA hybridisation studies placed the robins in a Corvida parvorder comprising many tropical and Australian passerines, including pardalotes, fairy-wrens, honeyeaters, and crows. However, subsequent molecular research (and current consensus) places the robins as a very early offshoot of the Passerida, or "advanced" songbirds, within the songbird lineage.

Description

Measuring 16–17 cm (6.5–6.5 in) in length, the dusky robin lacks the bright colours of its robin relatives. The male and female are similar in appearance, with greyish- or olive-brown upperparts and narrow white shoulder edge, and white patch on the wing. The throat is white and the underparts a pale brown. The feathers of the tail are brown with white edges. The bill is black, and the eyes and legs brown-black.

Distribution and habitat

The dusky robin is endemic to Tasmania, where it is widespread. Its preferred habitat is open eucalypt forest and coastal heath.

Breeding

The breeding season is from July to December, and one or two broods are raised. Placed in a fork in a tree or stump, often a fire-blackened one, the nest is a neat cup-shaped structure made of grass and bark, often only two or three metres above the ground. The clutch consists of two to four pale olive- to blue-green eggs, splotched with darker green and brown, and measuring 22 mm × 17 mm (0.87 in × 0.67 in).

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