Home | Tag Archives: pekin robin

Tag Archives: pekin robin

Feed Subscription

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.

An Overview of Less Commonly-Kept Cage and Aviary Birds – Part 1

One could spend a lifetime caring for a small number, or even a single species, of the most frequently encountered pet-trade birds, and never lack for new and interesting experiences. However, sometimes we long for something different – after all, keeping birds in captivity has long fascinated human-kind and many, from hummingbirds to ostriches, do amazingly well given the proper care.

I became aware of the possibilities open to serious aviculturists early on, while working for bird importers and later as a bird keeper at the Bronx Zoo. Many of the most interesting species that I encountered are now bred in captivity and available in the pet trade. Asia and Europe have always been hotbeds of species availability, but North American breeders have much to offer as well (many of our native species are popular pets overseas, but generally illegal to keep here in the USA).

Today I would like to introduce you to some birds that you may wish to consider when expanding your collection. All are well-established in the pet trade, and have been captive-bred for many generations. Please bear in mind that the care of most differs greatly from that required by more familiar pet-trade species. Future articles will cover other such birds, and captive care in more detail.

Be sure to research carefully before attempting to keep a new bird, and please write in with your questions and with your “wish list” – I and the Bird Room staff will do our best to help you to acquire the species in which you are interested.

Golden-fronted Leafbird, Chloropsis aurifrons
This gorgeous nectar-feeding specialist is one of my all-time favorites. Active and alert, it needs a bit of room to thrive, and cannot tolerate temperatures below 65 F or so. Golden-fronted leaf-bird

The back is colored dark green, fading to grass-green on the yellow-bordered breast, while the throat and wing-curve is blue. The face and crown are highlighted in black and gold, tinged with purple iridescence. Although slenderly built and but 8 inches in length, leafbirds can be quite aggressive towards other species – making up in agility and attitude what they lack in size. Golden-fronted leafbirds range from India and Myanmar south through Sumatra.

Leafbirds require a quality softbill diet, such as moistened Pretty Bird Softbill Select, as well as crickets and mealworms. Nectar and a fruit-based mix (Goldenfeast Nectar Gold and Tropical Fruit Pudding Blend), as well as diced banana, apple, papaya, orange and other fresh fruits, should be offered on a daily basis. They quite literally pick up and inspect nearly every bit of food offered, scattering a good deal in the process, and so need to be fed more heavily than similarly-sized birds (this hold true also for birds that consume a good deal of nectar). They drink copiously and bathe frequently. Image referenced from Wikipedia.

Pekin Robin, Leiothrix lutea
Pekin RobinThe somber gray-green back of this charming little bird is brilliantly offset by the orange breast. Shy and a mere 6 inches in length, pekin robins do best when kept in pairs or small groups, in a quiet cage or planted aviary.

These birds are favored pets in their native Southeast Asia, and are well-established in the USA as well. Those I cared for formed small flocks during much of the year and were not aggressive towards each other when paired (they were, however, in a large exhibit – breeding-season aggression may occur in smaller quarters).

Pekin robins will accept the foods listed as above for leafbirds, but do not require nectar. They should also be given a daily ration of small seeds, such as may be found in a high quality finch mix . Image referenced from Wikipedia.

Red-crested Cardinal, Paroaria coronata
With its dark gray back, bright scarlet head and crest Red-crested cardinals at feeder in Venezuelaand white breast, this small South American import makes a striking addition to any collection. In common with all cardinal-like birds, they need a large cage or aviary and are best housed in pairs. Most tend to be shy, but once settled in take readily to captivity and may even breed if given enough space and a stress-free environment.

A feeder I established at a field station in Venezuela drew several of these birds daily – they seemed curious about me, and would leave their food to inspect me from a safe distance. Captives retain this trait and never fail to notice all that goes on about them.

This and the closely related red-crowned, or Dominican cardinal, P. dominicana ( a popular pet in its native Brazil) will thrive on finch seed prod and fresh fruit, and should be offered 2-3 small insects daily as well.

Check back next week for the rest of this article.

Scroll To Top