|Often holding its wings out from the body and its tail spread, the Rose Robin may sometimes look more like a fantail than a robin. When foraging, Rose Robins seldom stay still, darting out from a perch in pursuit of flying insects with an aerobatic, tumbling flight, or snatching insects from the foliage. Even when perched, they regularly shift position or change perches by making short flights every few seconds. They often join mixed-species feeding flocks, accompanying thornbills, fantails and other small insectivorous species.
The Rose Robin is a slender robin with a relatively long tail. Males are dark grey above, with a white patch above the bill (frontal patch), and have a rose-pink breast. The lower part of the underbody and outer tail feathers are white, the wings and upper tail dark grey. Females are mainly brown-grey above with a small white frontal patch, white outertail and wing bars, and off-white below, with occasional pale pink wash across breast. Young birds resemble females, but are streaked white above, usually lack the white frontal patch, and are mottled darked brown underneath, with less or no pink. Rose Robins are the most acrobatic of the red robin genus (Petroica) with a darting, tumbling flight, and forage higher up in the canopy.
The Rose Robin may sometimes be confused with the other red robins that share its wet forest habitat, with the females and juveniles being the hardest to distinguish. However, it generally tends to be slimmer with a much longer tail and shorter legs. It can be distinguished from the rather similar Pink Robin, P. rodinogaster, by the following: the male not as black, and the pink only on the breast (it extends further down abdomen for Pink Robin), while the female is more grey than brown; the Pink Robin also has no white in the tail. Flame Robins (P. phoenicea ) are generally bigger and bulkier, with males having a distinctive white wing bar not seen in the Rose Robin.