North Island robins are one of three subspecies of robin, each found on one of New Zealand’s main islands (North, South, and Stewart Island). Robins are smaller than a starling and larger than a sparrow, weighing around 23 grams. They have a large head, short necks, and stand upright on long thin legs. Adults are dark grey with a light chest and belly and a white spot above their bill.
Robins are noisy, active, and inquisitive. They are one of New Zealand’s most fearless and curious birds, usually venturing within a few metres of people and occasionally hopping on boots. They often come to the ground to hunt for invertebrates in the leaf litter. They are one of the first birds to sing in the morning and the last to sing at night. The morning song consists of a high to low scale, uttered in quick succession. The evening performance is a short, rather melancholic chirping note, repeated quickly.
During breeding season, the male patrols and sings from prominent perches. Because females spend a significant amount of time near the ground foraging, building her nest, and incubating eggs, they are more vulnerable to predation and there is often a disproportionately higher number of males than females. Strong and balances populations are only found in areas where pest control is carried out.
This species was extinct in the lower North Island until 76 birds were transferred to ZEALANDIA from Kapiti Island in 2001 and 2002. Robins have adapted very well to life here and they are now found throughout the sanctuary. They were even the first species to be transferred out of ZEALANDIA to support a new population on Matiu/Somes Island.