HELP PLEASE (Pink Robin at Cape Schanck)

To: "Greg" <>, "keith" <>, "BA email" <>, "Paul Hackett" <>
Subject: HELP PLEASE (Pink Robin at Cape Schanck)
From: "Mike Carter" <>
Date: Sun, 17 Jun 2007 11:54:12 +1000
From: "Greg" <>

Greg Clancy wrote: 'I would have thought that the amount of white in the tail would have ruled out Pink and indicated that it was a Rose' and then added, 'Despite my earlier email I do acknowledge that the wing bars look right for the Pink Robin but I am confused about the amount of white in the tail'. So what do we learn from this. Basically, that there is more variation in Pink Robins than recognised in the literature! One might even say that many texts are misleading, some plainly wrong! Not previously having used HANZAB for Pink Robin I am VERY disappointed with the treatment there.

In my first twenty years or so in Australia, from 1964, I visited Cape Schanck on the Mornington Peninsula south of Melbourne almost weekly to do shore-based sea-watching. Back then, brown Robins were difficult to identify. Most autumns we would get brown Pink Robins (from Tasmania I assume) pausing on the headland before heading for the darker, denser gullies inland where they winter. The books we had then were Cayley's 'What Bird is That', Leach's 'An Australian Bird Book', and Serventy's 'Birds of Western Australia'. The latter of course didn't include Pink Robin so was of no help. We could see some pale in the outer tail, not white but off-white but even in those days, that was considered wrong for Pink Robin, which we believed them to be. So I went to the Victorian Museum and contrary to wide-held belief, found that brown Pink Robins quite normally have a portion, maybe half, of the outer web of the outermost rectrice off-white. I now regard that typical of the species. Pink Robins are annual winter visitors to the Peninsula whereas Rose Robins are rare vagrants. I have only ever seen one!

The big break through in Robin ID came only as recently as June 1993 with Danny Roger's, 'Red-breasted robins in Australia', one of a series of Bird Identification articles in Wingspan, brilliantly illustrated by Peter Marsack. That included diagrams of the tail patterns of our five robins in which the adult male has a red breast. Against the tail pattern of Pink Robin I wrote, 'some brown birds have pale base to tail' because although the outer rectrice was shown paler than the others the shade was constant. For Pink Robin under 'Brown birds', the text says 'Also unique in having ALMOST NO WHITE ON OUTER TAIL FEATHERS but note that ground colour of outer pair varies from dark to light brown; when seen in strong light outermost feathers can look deceptively off-white'. Rose Robin is shown as having white extending to the tips of the THREE outer tail feathers.

So what of Keith Hindley's bird. It is a Pink and not a Rose Robin because it is a stocky, large headed bird without the long tail of a Rose, both wing bars are broad, long, extend to the outer primaries, the upper bar is markedly L shaped, and they are rufous in colour, all contra to Rose Robin. Whilst the photo is too dark to determine precisely whether the outer tail feather is white or off-white, it is certainly paler than typical birds and therefore somewhat anomalous, but note that all the other rectrices appear wholly dark.

Mike Carter
30 Canadian Bay Road
Mount Eliza  VIC 3930
Tel  (03) 9787 7136

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