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Petroica macrocephala

The tomtit (Petroica macrocephala ) is a small passerine bird in the family Petroicidae, the Australasian robins. It is endemic to the islands of New Zealand, ranging across the main islands as well as several of the outlying islands. It has several other Māori and English names. There are several subspecies showing considerable variation in plumage and size. The species is not threatened and has adapted to the changes made to New Zealand's biodiversity.

Animal name origin

The term tomtit was originally a shortened form of tom titmouse. Either form has been used to describe a number of small birds, but in England tomtit was most commonly used as an alternate name of the blue tit. The word tit is today used for a number of small birds, especially of the family Paridae. Originally, it was used for any small animal or object.


The tomtit is a small (13 cm, 11 g) bird with a large head and a short bill. The male North Island subspecies has black head, back, wings (with a white wing-bar), and a white belly. The subspecies from South Island, the Chatham Islands, and Auckland Islands are similar, but have a yellow band across the breast between the black head and white belly. The females are brown instead of black. The Snares Island subspecies is entirely black, and is known as the black tit.

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The island subspecies of tomtits show a striking variation in body size, being considerably larger than their mainland relatives, a tendency known as the Foster's rule or the island effect. Birds from the main islands weigh around 11g, compared with birds from Snares Island, which weigh in at 20 g.

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Biogeographical realms

Habits and Lifestyle

The tomtit is mostly an insectivore, feeding on small invertebrates, such as beetles, caterpillars, spiders, moths, wētā, earthworms, and flies. Fruit is taken during the winter and autumn. Most subspecies feed in vegetation, waiting on a perch and watching for prey. Insects are also gleaned from branches and leaves. The Snares subspecies feeds on the ground as well, in a similar fashion to the North or South Island robins.

Seasonal behavior
Bird's call

Diet and Nutrition



1. Tomtit Wikipedia article -
2. Tomtit on The IUCN Red List site -
3. Xeno-canto bird call -

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