Chatham Island black robin (Petroica traversi)

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Chatham Island black robin on branch
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Chatham Island black robin fact file

Chatham Island black robin description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAves
OrderPasseriformes
FamilyMuscicapidae
GenusPetroica (1)

The conservation of this robin is an internationally renowned success story (3) (5); from bleak days in the 1980s, two thriving populations now exist. This small robin has pure black plumage and a short, slender bill (3). The sexes are similar in appearance, although females tend to be smaller in size (3). It is a poor flier and spends much of the time on or near the ground (5).

Also known as
Black robin.
Size
Length: 15 cm (2)
Weight
23.4 g (2)
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Chatham Island black robin biology

Pairs generally mate for life and produce a clutch of two eggs each year (3), which are aggressively defended (2). The average life expectancy is four years (3).

Black robins spend the majority of their time in the lower branches of the forest away from strong winds, or foraging amongst the leaf litter on the forest floor. They are insectivores; feeding on a wide range of invertebrates including cockroaches (4), worms and the endemic weta (a type of cricket) (6).

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Chatham Island black robin range

Previously found throughout the Chatham Islands, 850 kilometres east of mainland New Zealand. Today, these birds are only found on two small islands within the group, Mangere and Rangatira (South East) Islands (3).

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Chatham Island black robin habitat

Inhabits scrub forest remnants with closed canopy and open understorey (3).

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Chatham Island black robin status

Classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List 2007 (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Chatham Island black robin threats

The introduction of mammalian predators such as rats and cats to the Chatham Islands, following European settlement, caused a rapid and deleterious decline in black robin numbers; the species became extinct on all but one island (6). By 1880, the species was restricted to around ten hectares of woody vegetation on a mammal-free rock-stack known as Little Mangere Island (5). Habitat loss on this island further threatened the species however, and prompted an intensive conservation programme that began in the 1970s (5). Today a population of around 250 to 300 birds exists on two small islands: Mangere and Rangatira (or South East) Islands (6). Although all are descended from just one pair and are genetically identical, there are no apparent deleterious effects resulting from their small gene pool (6). The possibility of accidental predator introduction remains a threat (2).

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Chatham Island black robin conservation

In the 1970s, habitat loss on Little Mangere Island was so severe that the population of seven birds was moved to Mangere Island. By 1980 however, the situation had reached crisis point with only five birds left in the world, including only a single breeding pair (5). The New Zealand Wildlife Service began 'cross-fostering' eggs and young from this remaining pair of robins (known as 'old blue' and 'old yellow') to another species in an effort to increase productivity (4) (5). This innovative approach was a resounding success; today between 250 and 300 birds are distributed on Mangere and Rangatira Islands and there are plans to introduce a population to the much larger Pitt Island once it has been cleared of pests (4) (6). This is a remarkable conservation success story and an example of what can be achieved (5).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For more information on the Chatham Island black robin see:

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Authentication

Authenticated (3/12/02) by Don Merton, New Zealand Department of Conservation.
http://www.doc.govt.nz/

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Glossary

Cross-fostering
Technique in which the eggs or young of one (rare) species are placed into the nest of another (common) species; the young are subsequently reared or 'fostered' by the other species.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2008)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org
  2. WCMC Species Sheets (May, 2008)
    http://www.unep-wcmc.org/species/data/species_sheets/chatham.htm
  3. BirdLife International. (2000) Threatened Birds of the World. Lynx Edicions and BirdLife International, Barcelona and Cambridge.
  4. Butler, D. and Merton, D. (1992) The Black robin: saving the world's most endangered bird. Oxford University Press, Auckland, NZ.
  5. NZ Department of Conservation (May, 2008)
    http://www.doc.govt.nz/templates/podcover.aspx?id=32911
  6. Merton, D. (2002) Pers. comm.
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Image credit

Chatham Island black robin on branch  
Chatham Island black robin on branch

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