The birds are sparsely distributed through South Island and Stewart Island, although the distribution is not continuous.
The South Island Robin (Petroica australis australis), and the Stewart Island Robin (Petroica australis rakiura) are today accepted as subspecies.
The species is closely related to the North Island Robin (formerly Petroica australis longipes, now considered a distinct species [Miller and Lambert, 2006]), and also to the extremely rare Black Robin (Petroica traversi) of the Chatham Islands.
The birds generally inhabit the forest fringe, and can often be found in the green belts of towns and cities.
The male’s plumage is a dark slate grey whereas the female is dark grey-brown. On both birds the throat and belly are considerably lighter, in the male a cream colour.
It is this bright breast that gave the birds their name, in comparison with the bright breast of the European Robin.