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|Erithacus rubecula, male.|
Species: E. rubecula
The European Robin (Erithacus rubecula), also known as a ruddock, robinet, or (in Anglophone Europe) simply robin, is a small insectivorous passerine bird that was formerly classed as a member of the thrush family (Turdidae), but is now considered to be an Old World flycatcher (Muscicapidae). Around 12.5–14.0 cm (5.0–5.5 in) in length, the male and female are similar in colouration, with an orange breast and face lined with grey, brown upperparts and a whitish belly. It is found across Europe, east to Western Siberia and south to North Africa; it is sedentary in most of its range except the far north.
The term Robin is also applied to some unrelated birds with red breasts. These include the American Robin (Turdus migratorius), which is a thrush, and the Australian red robins of the genus Petroica, which are more closely related to crows.
The European Robin was one of the many species originally described by Linnaeus in his 18th century work, Systema Naturae, under the name of Motacilla rubecula. Its specific epithet rubecula is a diminutive derived from the Latin ruber 'red'. The genus Erithacus was created by French naturalist Georges Cuvier in 1800, giving the bird its current binomial name of E. rubecula.
The distinctive red breast of both sexes led to the European Robin's original name of redbreast. In the fifteenth century, when it became popular to give human names to familiar species, the bird came to be known as Robin redbreast, which was eventually shortened to Robin. In American literature of the late 19th century, this robin was frequently called the English Robin. The Frisian robyntsje or robynderke is similar to the English name, while Dutch Roodborstje and French Rougegorge both refer to the distinctive red front.
The Robin belongs to a group of mainly insectivorous birds that have been variously assigned to the thrushes or "flycatchers", depending on how these groups were perceived taxonomically. Eventually, the flycatcher-thrush assemblage was re-analysed and the genus Erithacus assigned to a group of thrush-like true flycatchers, the tribe Saxicolini, that also includes the nightingale and the Old World chats.
Two Eastern Palearctic species are usually placed in the genus Erithacus, the Japanese Robin (E. akahige) and the Ryūkyū Robin (E. komadori), the latter being a restricted-range island species. Biogeography and mtDNA cytochrome b sequence data indicate that these might better be classified with some Far Eastern "nightingales", leaving only the European species in Erithacus.
In its large continental Eurasian range, Robins vary somewhat, but do not form discrete populations that might be considered subspecies. Thus, Robin subspecies are mainly distinguished by forming resident populations on islands and in mountainous areas.
The Robin from the British Isles (Erithacus rubecula melophilus) also occurs on the Continental side of the English channel and as a vagrant in adjacent regions. E. r. witherbyi from Northwestern Africa, Corsica, and Sardinia closely resembles melophilus but for a shorter wing length. The northeasternmost birds, large and fairly washed-out in colour are E. r. tataricus. In the southeast of its range, E. r. valens of the Crimean Peninsula, E. r. caucasicus of the Caucasus and N Transcaucasia, and E. r. hyrcanus southeastwards into Iran are generally accepted as significantly distinct.
On Madeira and the Azores, the local population has been described as E. r. microrhynchos, and although not distinct in morphology, its isolation seems to suggests the subspecies is valid (but see below). The most distinct birds are those of Tenerife and Gran Canaria (E. (r.) superbus), which may be a distinct species, the Tenerife Robin, Erithacus superbus. It is readily distinguished by a white eye-ring, an intensely coloured breast, and a grey line that separates the orange-red from the brown colouration. Its belly is entirely white. Robins from the western Canary Islands – El Hierro, La Palma and La Gomera – on the other hand are indistinguishable from European E. r. rubecula. While cytochrome b sequence data and vocalisations indicate that the Tenerife/Gran Canaria Robins are indeed very distinct and probably derived from colonization by mainland birds some 2 million years ago, The W Canary Islands populations are younger (Middle Pleistocene) and only beginning to diverge genetically. In addition, Tenerife and Gran Canaria birds are well distinct genetically and the latter have been named E. (r.) marionae; a thorough comparison between superbus and marionae is pending. Initial results suggest that Gran Canaria birds have distinctly shorter (c.10%) wings than Tenerife superbus."
(From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)
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