Dan Mennill - Bird Songs of the Atherton Tablelands
Grey-headed Robin
Heteromyias albispecularis
  Figure 1. Spectrogram of the Grey-headed Robin song. 
(The first 10-seconds from the sound file are depicted.)

Figure 2. A monotonous endemic Grey-headed Robin.

Grey-headed Robin - Heteromyias albispecularis

This small endemic bird sings a monotonous whistled song which is easy for humans to imitate. Grey-headed robin songs typically consist of just one note, repeated ad nauseum at a frequency of approximately 2500 Hz. Grey-headed robins sometimes vary their song by syncopating the rhythm of the repeated notes or by introducing a second note, as in the first part of the sound file above. Neighbouring grey-headed robins often engage in countersinging contests at pitches offset by a very small but distinct frequency interval. These awkward intervals have an ear-splitting effect for a listener caught between two countersinging males. In the second half of the sound file, you can hear a portion of a countersinging contest between a nearby male and a more distant male singing at a slightly higher pitch.

Grey-headed robins have a very unusual stress call. When being released from a mist net, grey headed robins sing a very faint, whispered version of their full song. They will sing this quiet song until they are released. 

The song of the grey-headed robin shares a remarkable similarity with the song of the ferruginous pygmy-owl, Glaucidium brasilianum (click here to hear ferruginous pygmy-owl’s song). Both the robin and the owl’s songs contain monotonous repeated notes. However, the robin’s habit of syncopating notes and alternating pitches is not seen in the owl. The grey-headed robin and the ferruginous pygmy owl both live in dense forested habitats on opposite sides of the world. Their vocal similarities may reflect convergent evolution for efficient information transfer in very densely foliated habitats.


Grey-headed robins live in the understory of rainforests above 300m in elevation.


Grey-headed robins occupy a very restricted range around Atherton, Queensland. However, they are also found on Papua New Guinea.

Further Reading.

Visit the ferruginous pygmy-owl page of my Bird Songs of the Yucatan Peninsula webpage.


All information copyright Dan Mennill, 2001 (unless otherwise indicated). 
No recordings, photographs, or other information may be used without written permission (email me at dmennill AT uwindsor DOT ca).
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