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Forest Robin - BirdForum Opus

Olive-backed Forest Robin
Artwork © by ririhugs
Stiphrornis erythrothorax

Includes: Western Forest Robin; Sangha Forest Robin; Gabon Forest Robin; Eastern Forest Robin; Olive-backed Forest Robin; Orange-breasted Forest Robin; Yellow-breasted Forest Robin; Forest Akalat


11–13 cm (4¼-5 in); Small, smaller than Eurasian Robin, ground dwelling Robin.


Five taxa are very distinctive.

  • Western Forest Robin ( erythrothorax ). Upperparts grey with a greenish wash - black tinge to area around the base of the bill and along the lower edge of the ear-coverts. Bold white spot on the lores. Chin, throat and breast bright orangish russet. Lower breast, belly, and undertail coverts white. Flanks and "thigh" pale grey.
  • Gabon Forest Robin ( gabonensis ). Distinctly darker oliveish grey forehead, crown and sides to the head. Bold white spot on the lores Mantle as head only colder and less olive. Rump and upper tail coverts and tail distinctly paler than mantle. Throat and upper breast paler, more orange than erythrothorax. Flank and "thigh" pale grey. Rest of underparts white.
  • Eastern Forest Robin ( xanthogaster ). Upperparts grey with a strong olive wash - dusky suffusion around the base of the bill and under the ear-coverts ( not as dark as erythrothorax ). Bold white spot on the lores. Rump and uppertail coverts somewhat paler than the rest of the upperparts, but rather difficult to make out in the field. Chin, throat and breast yellow - slightly paler on the throat, rest of underparts cream. Flank and "thigh" warmer grey than the preceding taxa.
  • Olive-backed Forest Robin ( pyrrholaemus ). Forehead, crown, earcoverts and sides of neck dark grey / black. Bold white spot on the lores. Rest of upperparts distinctly olive green, including the rump and upper tail coverts. Chin, throat and breast bright orange, rest of underparts pale, but rich yellow. Flank and "thigh" very neutral grey. Looks distinctly "hooded" in the field.
  • Sangha Forest Robin ( sanghensis ). Forehead, crown and ear-coverts dark grey with olive wash. Mantle paler grey, rump and upper-tail coverts slightly paler again. Bold white spot on lores. Chin, throat and breast yellowish orange. Rest of underparts rich cream. Flank and "thigh" neutral grey. (Presumably, subspecies mabirae is somewhat similar to this one).

Similar Species

Similar to Akalats ( Shepphardia spp ) but with brighter underparts and more slender, downcurved bill and a distinctive white spot on the lores.


Africa. From Guinea Conakry to extreme westernmost Sudan, down to southern Uganda and coastal areas of Democratic Republic of Congo.



Clements recognizes six subspecies:2

  • S. e. erythrothorax (Western Forest Robin) from Sierra Leone to southwestern Ghana
  • S. e. gabonensis (Gabon Forest Robin) in Ghana (except southwest) east to central Cameroon and northern Gabon; Bioko (Gulf of Guinea)
  • S. e. xanthogaster (Eastern Forest Robin): Poorly known; documented from southeastern Cameroon, but presumably also in adjacent northeastern Gabon and northwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • S. e. sanghensis (Sangha Forest Robin) in Dzanga - Sangha forest, Central African Republic. Unknown. May be parapatric.
  • S. e. mabirae found in extreme southwestern South Sudan and western and southern Uganda; western distributional limits not well defined, but presumably extends into northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • S. e. pyrrholaemus (Olive-backed Forest Robin): Not well known, but reported in southwestern Gabon south of the Ogooué River, and in northeastern Gabon north of the Ogooué River.

Clements[2] divides these up in three species (Olive-backed Forest Robin, S. pyrrholaemus; Orange-breasted Forest Robin S. erythrothorax, including the next two subspecies; and Yellow-breasted Forest Robin S. mabirae which includes sanghensis). In contrast, IOC[3] keep all subspecies together, and Beresford, P and J Cracraft[1] recognise the five taxa mentioned in the "Variation" section as full species. Three additional (sub)species have recently been described, so far not widely recognized.


Lowland forests.



They forage on the ground for insects.


There is currently no information available.


  • S.e. erythrothorax
    • High, rather thin cheer eer, chee-err, ch-chee-ee. Fast and repetitious in longish series. Fades slightly towards the end.
  • S.e. gabonensis
    • Slower than erythrothorax with che-ar notes mixed in. Sharply cut off at the end.
  • S.e. sanghensis
    • As erythrothorax but almost continuous, series running into each other.
  • S.e. pyrrholaemus
    • Continuous, like sanghensis but rythm differs. trp. cheercheer che, chp-chee-chee. Often a single chirp at the end.
  • S.e. xanthogaster
    • Like sanghensis in speed and ending but, rhythm differ. cheer cheer, whee whee whee


  1. Beresford, P and J Cracraft. 1999. Speciation in African forest robins (Stiphrornis): species limits, phylogenetic relationships, and molecular biogeography. American Museum Novitates 3270, 1–22.
  2. Clements, J. F., T. S. Schulenberg, M. J. Iliff, T. A. Fredericks, J. A. Gerbracht, D. Lepage, S. M. Billerman, B. L. Sullivan, and C. L. Wood. 2022. The eBird/Clements checklist of Birds of the World: v2022. Downloaded from https://www.birds.cornell.edu/clementschecklist/download/
  3. Gill, F, D Donsker, and P Rasmussen (Eds). 2023. IOC World Bird List (v 13.2). Doi 10.14344/IOC.ML.13.2. http://www.worldbirdnames.org/
  4. Schmidt, BK, JT Foster, GR Angehr, KL Durrant and RC Fleischer. 2008. A new species of African Forest Robin from Gabon (Passeriformes: Muscicapidae: Stiphrornis). Zootaxa 1850, 27–42.
  5. Fjeldså, J. (2020). Olive-backed Forest-robin (Stiphrornis pyrrholaemus). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from https://www.hbw.com/node/204361 on 23 February 2020)

Recommended Citation

External Links

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