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Introducing the Pekin Robin (Japanese Nightingale, Hill Tit, Red-Billed Leiothrix), Leiothrix lutea – Part 2

Please see Part I of this article for additional information.

Natural History

Ranging from the southern Himalayas to eastern China and south into Myanmar, Pekin robins are largely birds of high-altitudes.  They frequent forest underbrush and clearings on mountainsides, and are rarely seen out in the open.  They will also forage on farms and in gardens, where they are much appreciated for their insect-catching abilities.

Pekin robins reach only 6 inches in length, and are attractively clad in olive-green.  The throat is yellow, blending with orange at the breast.  The black and yellow banded red flight feathers show nicely when the wings are folded.

Space Requirements

Despite their small size, Pekin robins need a great deal of space, and should be housed in an aviary whenever possible.  Their feeding mode keeps them on the move all day long, and they will fall into repetitive behaviors if cramped in captivity.

Hailing from mountain-side forests, they are very cold tolerant.  If provided with a warm shelter and gradually acclimated, Pekin robins can be housed outdoors year-round throughout much of the USA.  This renders them an ideal choice for those seeking an unusual bird that does not require a great deal of indoor space.

Insects and Other Dietary Needs

Pekin robins require a diet rich in insects – they cannot crack or grind seeds.  A good insectivorous bird mix should form the base of their diet. Small crickets, mealworms, waxworms and wild-caught insects are all relished.  I believe that the provision of a wide variety of insects is key to success with these birds, and urge you to use a ZooMed Bug Napper Insect Trap  to catch your own whenever possible.  ZooMed Anole Food (dried insects) is also worth trying, and egg food is almost always accepted.

Fruit figures importantly in the diet of wild Pekin robins…berries, oranges, apples, banana, papaya and a host of others should be provided daily.  Many individuals will also accept small amounts of carrot, broccoli and other vegetables.


An interesting article describing field research on a population of feral Pekin robins that has become established in Japan is posted at:


Image referenced from Wikipedia.

Introducing the Pekin Robin (Japanese Nightingale, Hill Tit, Red-Billed Leiothrix), Leiothrix lutea, Part 1

Pekin RobinI first made my acquaintance with Pekin robins while working for a bird importer, but did not really get to know them well until I again met up with them as a Bronx Zoo bird keeper.  Housing them in a large, mixed species aviary there, I was able to appreciate their many interesting behaviors.  They are always on the move…bathing, hunting and exploring, more so than most birds.

These beautiful little “babblers” (Family Sylviidae) have been kept by aviculturists for over 100 years, and it is easy to see why.  Pekin robins are a real delight to watch, especially if one can provide them with an outdoor aviary, and are far hardier than most “exotic softbills”.  Males sing beautifully but softly, and both sexes are attractively colored.

They are excellent starter birds for those looking to expand their bird-keeping horizons, but really should be kept in outdoor aviaries for at least part of the year.  They fly rather than climb about as do parrots, and cannot usually be released for exercise, and so do not adapt readily to confined quarters.


You can read more about the care and natural history of Pekin robins, including a note about an introduced population on Hawaii, at the web site of the Honolulu Zoo:


Image referenced from Wikipedia.

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