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Eastern Yellow Robin – a Bright Yellow Spark in the Undergrowth

Perching and Pouncing in the dark layers of the Forest

Eastern Yellow Robin by Maryse Jansen
Eastern Yellow Robin

Perching and Pouncing in the Undergrowth

The altitudinal migration habits of the Eastern Yellow Robin explain why I see more of these birds during the colder season then in summer, although they are usually around. They seem not too picky about their habitat which ranges from rainforests to open woodlands and parklands, as long as they have access to relatively dense vegetation with little ground cover. But the dropping temperatures drive them from the mountain ranges back to coastal lowlands during winter.

I smile when I think back about one of the very first videos I took for my YouTube series ‘Come for a walk in the Australian Bush’. I got some great footage of this bird that time, hopping around in the undergrowth, feeding and preening! Check it out here: Eastern Yellow Robin footage.

Eastern Yellow Robins usually stay fairly close to the ground, it is likely you may spot them in their characteristic pose on the side of a tree trunk, or otherwise perched low to the ground. They are in search of food and they feed mainly on insects, but also spiders, lizards and other small creatures. From their perch they swoop down and pounce on their prey. They glide regularly in a low flight from tree to tree to find new vantage points.

Eastern Yellow Robin Foraging by Maryse Jansen
Eastern Yellow Robin Foraging

How to recognize and Eastern Yellow Robin

They are greyish on the head and upper parts, which blend perfectly with those tree trunks. But when they turn their striking, bright yellow rump into my line of vision I have no doubt that I have spotted an Eastern Yellow Robin. Like other Robins, they have attractive round, black eyes and these are accentuated by a dark area between the eye and the short black beak. The throat is white.

In flight, they reveal some more of their yellow colour as the lifted wings expose part of the backside of their rump. They also have a white bar on their wings. There are actually two forms of the Eastern Yellow Robin: the northern form being bright yellow and the southern birds having more of an olive-yellow tinge.

To be honest, it’s a bit hard to guess which form I’m looking at here when I can’t compare the two, but my sense of colour, combined with a distribution map has me conclude that it will most likely be the northern form. Eastern Yellow Robins are found in eastern and south-eastern Australia, along the coastal and adjacent areas. They can be seen a long way inland in certain areas. Another, very similar looking bird is the Western Yellow Robin. But to avoid confusion, their ranges do not overlap.

While Australian red robins, such as the Red-capped Robin, belong to the same taxonomic family (Petroicidae) as the yellow robins, they do belong to a different genus. Red robins (Petroica) are generally smaller then and obviously differently coloured with red or pinkish breasts to yellow robins (Eopsaltria).

Breeding Habits

The breeding season of the Eastern Yellow Robin runs from July to January. During this period a pair may produce multiple clutches, usually two or three. The nest is a cup nest and is woven from grasses, bark and other vegetation. This is done by the female bird only. She uses spider webs to hold everything together and lines the nest with leaves and other soft materials. While she builds the nest she gets fed by the courting male. He will continue to feed her while she incubates the eggs.

The nest is placed in the fork of a tree, between 5 and 20m above ground level. Two or three eggs are laid and incubated for two to three weeks. Both parents engage in feeding the chicks amd it takes a similar period of time before they are old enough to fledge. Sometimes extra helpers may be involved in raising the chicks. These are typically young males that were raised by the pair in the year before. Having these helpers increases the chances of success for the new chicks who, after leaving the nest, hide out on the ground in the undergrowth for another three to four weeks, still fully dependant on their carers.

If you would be able to catch a glimpse of them, the fledgelings are not easy to recognise as Yellow Robins. They are mostly a mottled brown in colour. Their plumage changes a lot as they mature as gradually more and more yellow patches come through.

Eastern Yellow Robin and Chick by Maryse Jansen
Eastern Yellow Robin and Chick

A Sudden Flash of Bright Yellow

When matured, these birds still mostly move around in the darker areas of the forest, so it is always a bit exciting to see that sudden flash of the bright yellow colour! It defintely has me stop in my tracks each time and take a moment to admire the bird!

Join me on my walk through a coastal rainforest and spot a number of birds, including an Eastern Yellow Robin, in the latest episode of ‘Come for a walk in the Australian Bush’:

If you are interested in purchasing the featured image ‘Eastern Yellow Robin’ or would like to see what it looks like on the various products, please head to my shop.

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