Orange-flanked bush-robin (Tarsiger cyanurus)

Also known as: Red-flanked bluetail
GenusTarsiger (1)
SizeLength: 13 - 15 cm (2)
Weight10 - 18 g (2)

The orange-flanked bush-robin is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1).

The most distinctive feature of the orange-flanked bush-robin (Tarsiger cyanurus) is the vibrant plumage of the male. In addition to orange flanks, which give the bird its common name, the male has deep blue upperparts, with a bright blue head, shoulder, rump and tail. The duller female has olive-brown upperparts, but is similar to the male in its orange flanks and blue rump and tail (2). In both sexes, the throat is white (3) and the bill and legs are black (2). Juvenile males resemble females, having not yet developed the distinctive blue plumage (2).

The orange-flanked bush-robin is a shy bird that is often well hidden, but can frequently be heard singing from high up in the top of a tree (3). The male’s song is comprised of a short, rolling ‘tree trr-tretritt’ and a rising, melodic ‘whew-wee-whew-wee’. These calls are made early in the breeding season, and the female responds with a weaker and shorter call (2). Shorter and harder calls are used as an alarm when the orange-flanked bush-robin is agitated (3).

Two subspecies of the orange-flanked bush-robin are recognised: Tarsiger cyanurus cyanurus and Tarsiger cyanurus rufilatus. The latter is slightly larger, with darker plumage and a simpler and softer song (2).

The orange-flanked bush-robin has an extremely wide distribution, occurring predominantly in Asia. T. c. cyanurus is found from Finland and north-west Russia, across Siberia, to China and Japan (2), while T. c. rufilatus is found throughout the Himalayas (2) at 2,400 to 4,600 metres above sea level (4).

The orange-flanked bush-robin migrates south for winter, to southern China and Southeast Asia (5).

Throughout its large range, the orange-flanked bush-robin occupies coniferous and birch forests (4) with dense undergrowth (2).

The diet of the orange-flanked bush-robin comprises primarily insects, such as beetles, caterpillars, ants and wasps, which it forages for in the undergrowth or may snatch from the air in flight. It will also eat other invertebrates, such as spiders (2), and feeds on fruits and seeds during the non-breeding season (2) (5).

During the breeding season, the male orange-flanked bush-robin arrives at the breeding grounds first (6), and starts defending a territory of roughly fifty metres in radius, mainly through song (7). With the arrival of the females soon after, breeding pairs will form, each occupying a single territory. However, the females may also mate with other males as well as their ‘partner’ (6).

Unlike many birds, the orange-flanked bush-robin nests on the ground rather than in trees. The female constructs a cup-shaped nest from twigs and moss, lined with feathers and grass, which is placed among roots or in a cavity in a tree stump or rotten log (2) (5). Three to seven eggs are laid, which are white and may have a few reddish speckles. The female incubates the eggs for 15 days, and the fledglings will spend a further 15 days in the nest after they have hatched (2).

The orange-flanked bush-robin is not currently known to be facing any threats.

There are no known specific conservation measures currently in place for the orange-flanked bush-robin.

Find out more about the orange-flanked bush-robin:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:

  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2010)
  2. del Hoyo, J., Elliot, A. and Christie, D.A. (2005) Handbook of the Birds of the World. Volume 10: Cuckoo-shrikes to Thrushes. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona.
  3. Delin, H. and Svensson, L. (2009) Philip’s Guide to Birds of Britain and Europe. Philips, London.
  4. Sibley, C.G. and Monroe Jr., B.L. (1990) Distribution and Taxonomy of Birds of the World. Yale University Press, New Haven and London.
  5. Wang, Y., Chang, J., Moore, F.R., Su, L., Cui, L. and Yang, X. (2006) Stopover ecology of Red-flanked Bush Robin (Tarsiger cyanurus) at Maoershan, Northeast China. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 26(3): 638-646.
  6. Satio, D.S., Morimoto, G., Fukunaga, A. and Ueda, K. (2006) Isolation and characterization of microsatellite markers in red-flanked bushrobin, Tarsinger cyanurus (Aves: Turdidae). Molecular Ecology Notes, 6: 425-427.
  7. Morimoto, G., Yamaguchi, N. and Ueda, K. (2005) Plumage color as a status signal in male-male interaction in the red-flanked bushrobin, Tarsiger cyanurus. Journal of Ethology, 24: 261-266.