Re: Fwd: [canberrabirds] Songs of Flame Robins

To: Jack & Andrea Holland <>
Subject: Re: Fwd: [canberrabirds] Songs of Flame Robins
From: Martin Butterfield <>
Date: Sun, 20 Aug 2017 01:23:37 +0000
I have got one comment (so far) about the Robins interacting - the observer wasn't sure if it was love or war - and repeatedly flying in and out of a dense hedge.  This is at an area where I have been seeing males regularly for the past 2 weeks. 

On 19 August 2017 at 17:17, Martin Butterfield <> wrote:
Thanks Jack.  I shall alert the neighbours to keep an eye open.  The description of nest sites in HANZAB starting with "Charred hollow trunk or stump ..." suggests the Robins are going to be embarrassed for choice of location!


On 19 August 2017 at 17:06, Jack & Andrea Holland <> wrote:
Martin, yes Mark is correct, as described in my article about the Campbell Park breeding event in CBN, 39, 185-192 (2014).  In it you will also find a discussion of my unsuccessful attempt from the available photographs to determine which was the male and which the female of this couple.
Also you will find a Section on peri-urban breeding in Canberra.  The remarkable feature in Table 2 p191 is that all the records were of early breeding, with the clear majority of the nests with young being September/October.  Indeed the 2014 nest seemed to have been built late August/early September (see Table 1, p187).  This is similar timing to yours, so it would be well worthwhile keeping a close eye on them to see if nest building etc follows.
The Flame Robin is a well known early coloniser of burnt areas, and this could relate to breeding as well as presence.  I recall the outing I led to Thredbo in March of 2004 where there were several hundred of mainly brown birds on the edge of the top end of the golf course and in the adjacent burnt area (see p3 of the April 2004 Gang-gang).  While they probably weren’t actually bred there, the vast areas of country burnt 14 months earlier does suggest a very successful breeding season following the Kosciuszko fires.
Jack Holland
Sent: Saturday, August 19, 2017 2:29 PM
Subject: Fwd: [canberrabirds] Songs of Flame Robins
I thought this message from Mark was interesting.  My direct answer to him was that I was not all certain but had assumed that by this stage of their life cycle all male birds would have acquired adult plumage.  According to HANZAB, "It ain't necessarily so"!
  • They fledge in juvenile plumage.
  • A moult into an immature plumage occurs within a few months of fledging.
  • A first complete moult occurs at the end of their first year (or early in the second) which I would take to be about now;
  • Most males adopt adult plumage with this moult; but
  • Some only go into adult plumage with the second complete moult.
Thus it is possible that some of the brown birds around now haven't had their first complete moult while others are waiting for the second complete moult to get orange but are still interested in attracting mates and as Mark notes can breed if they get lucky.
Given that song has been going on continuously for about 3 weeks in the same areas, as David McDonald has suggested it would certainly meet the requirements for eBird breeding code T Territory held for 7+ days  which is rated as a Probable indicator of breeding.  This puts it above code C Courtship, Display or Copulation but below (ie less likely as an indicator) carrying nest material or nest building.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Mark Clayton <>
Date: 19 August 2017 at 10:49
Subject: Songs of Flame Robins
To: Martin Butterfield <>



Are you sure your “singing female” was not an uncoloured male. From memory the pair that has bred at Campbell Park were “brown” birds. I don’t think that you can class the birds as breeding based on a song a it may just be a single bird in search of a mate.




From: Martin Butterfield [mailto:]
Sent: Saturday, 19 August 2017 10:33 AM
To: COG List
Subject: [canberrabirds] Songs of Flame Robins


I have previously commented on the appearance of Flame Robins in our area since the fires.  For the past couple of weeks - perhaps longer - they have been very vocal.  The song is that described on the Pizzey and Knight app as a Territorial song.  In most cases where I have been able to see the singer it has been a male bird.  However this morning I clearly saw a female giving the song without, as far as I could tell, a response from another bird.  It was possibly significant that a pair of Scarlet Robins were about 10m away. 


Reading the section in HANZAB seems to imply that the primary functions of these songs are establishing/defending a breeding territory (with Scarlet Robins being nominated competitors) and/or attracting a mate.  Am I thus justified in counting these songs as Display and thus breeding records?



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