Sunday, December 17, 2006

"The Red Red Robins"

Over the last several weeks, I've walked through numerous areas of bush and forest, and in doing so, gained some idea of the ratio of Scarlet to Flame Robins. There has been, quite rightly, some concern at the diminishing numbers of robins, largely due to habitat loss, and that includes our own Tasmanian endemic Dusky Robin. I've not carried out any scientifically based survey, but have gained a "feel" for the 2 'red' robins around the South East of Tasmania, and make the following observations.
In the forest areas that the 2 species are generally found in during the breeding season, the Scarlet Robin is by far the most numerous. The balance leans slightly more
toward the 'Flame' in the wetter and denser forest areas, but only slightly. I have noted around 6 to 8 times more Scarlets than Flames. The Scarlet Robin is much more likely to utilise open areas to forage, is more tolerant of human presence, and where the 2 species occur together, will often drive the 'flames' away. Indeed, the Flame Robin seems altogether more timid than the Scarlet Robin, but as often happens, there are some individuals that buck the trend. The red males of both species are amongst the most readily recognised and known of bush birds by the general public, although I suspect that relatively few can readily differentiate them, even less so their drabber female counterparts!
The 2 images seen here, were both taken in the Risdon Brook Park this weekend. Top Left, Scarlet Robin male, bottom right, Flame Robin male.


John & Shirley Tongue said...

Hi Alan,
I would agree with these observations for forested and wooded areas wher both occur. The Scarlet is then far more common. However, in open farming paddocks, we've only occasionaly seen the Scarlet, and though the Flame as still not COMMON, we have sometimes come upon large flocks of them together, sometimes number 20 to 30 males, or even more.

BirdingTas said...

Hi John,
Thanks for your comments. As I mentioned in the article, this obs. is in their breeding habitat, and would give some impression of their relative abundance. I think that seeing flocks of Flame Robins in the non breeding season, probably skews this apparent relative abundance. Although, nowadays, even these flocks appear to be far fewer. Scarlet Robins tend to be sedentary, rarely flock, but are far more widespread, even in the non breeding season. Perhaps a case of "can't see the birds for the trees!"

Duncan said...

Lovely images Alan, I wish I could get close enough for some like that. I'd have to go to the high country to see them at the moment, something I was going to do, but out of the question now with the fires. We see lots of flames in winter especially along the coast, maybe some of yours, they keep their distance though.

John Tongue said...

I think you're right, Alan. We do tend to see only the odd Flame Robin - and then usually as an individual - in the breeding season. the flock's we've seen (again, not frequently, but sometimes large flocks) have been in the non-breeding season. This is when many of the field guides say they've packed up and moved to the mainland, but this is obviously only for some, or the guides have got it entirely wrong!

BirdingTas said...

Hi Duncan,
I've always found the Scarlets to be the more confiding of the 2,at this time of year. The male Scarlet photo was taken from the track. I just walked up to it and "shot" it, seemingly quite unfazed by my presence. It was a cool morning, and not much active insect life about, and he was probably more intend on a feed! Flames are usually a bit shy, but they vary considerably, and this one was taken in relatively thick scrub in which I was concealed, near water, which may have been the attraction.

BirdingTas said...

I'm always a bit worried, John, with field guides, and indeed our own use of the expressions of "common", "rare" etc.. Not that I can think of a better alternative! As you say, there are Flames here all year round, although I believe that there is solid evidence that some/many/most do migrate.