Rich Ditch's Photography Blog

October 21, 2009

Rufous-backed Robin

Rufous-backed Robin

Rufous-backed Robin

When I shamelessly promoted my birdwalk at Boyce Thompson Arboretum last week I mentioned we’d look for a Rufous-backed Robin (Turdus rufopalliatus). Well, four day’s after the birdwalk I found one there – in a Chinese Pistachio tree in the picnic area just off the lower parking lot.

I had been expecting one to show up there, since there are already two others being seen south of Tucson, AZ: you can see photos of those two birds and read the details by clicking the appropriate links on the photo documentation page at I consider Boyce Thompson Arboretum to be the best place in the continental United States to see this Mexican species as it seems there’s one or two found at Boyce more years than it is not found. Checking my records reveals that I’ve seen this species 11 years in the almost 16 that I’ve lived here in AZ, and 10 of those were at Boyce.

I had gone back to Boyce this morning so I could spend some time trying to photograph a few of the birds we’d seen on the birdwalk, plus try to find the thrasher we’d heard calling from the scrub that might have been an unlikely LeConte’s Thrasher. I didn’t do well with the morning photos, and I didn’t find the LeConte’s. I was on my way back to my car and thought I’d take one last look at the bird activity in the pistachio tree only to find this Rufous-backed Robin feeding in front of my totally in the open. I shot instantly without touching any cameara settings, so this was taken with my Nikon D200, 300/2.8 and 2x,  at ISO 400, 1/640th at f/5.6. It is full frame minus a 10% off the right edge to balance the composition.

This is a close relative of the well known favorite American Robin (Turdus migratorius) that just spills over into the U.S> from Texas to California. The rusty back and wing coverts that give the bird its name are the most obvious difference, but also note the heavy streaking on the throat and the lack of eye crescents.

American Robin at Gilbert Water Ranch

American Robin at Gilbert Water Ranch



  1. Great shot. Wish I were there.

    Larry Selman
    Spending the month of December near Bisbee.

    Comment by Larry Selman — October 21, 2009 @ 6:56 pm

  2. Excellent photography Richard.. I am very happy to see the difference between the Rufous-backed and American Robin

    Comment by John Hardison — October 21, 2009 @ 7:04 pm

  3. Wow! You nailed this one, Rich.

    Comment by Pete Moulton — October 21, 2009 @ 7:53 pm

  4. Great shot. I was there in the morning also and didn’t see it. Now I won’t be able to get back for 3 weeks.

    Comment by John Schultz — October 21, 2009 @ 10:19 pm

  5. great shot, rich – this may be the best RBRO photo i’ve seen taken here. i like the fruit, dark background and sharp focus on the eye. yowza! cool shot. i wonder if its the same bird which has been seen here in past years? checking my records i didn’t see a report of an RBRO here since january, 2006. ~pw

    Comment by paul@BTA — October 22, 2009 @ 1:22 pm

  6. Spectacular, Rich!

    Comment by Lee — October 22, 2009 @ 6:14 pm

  7. Rich,

    The Rufous-backed Robin is a spectacular image, HUGE congrats on the image!

    Comment by Mia — October 24, 2009 @ 1:09 pm

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