NOT just any Oriole and Robin

Birding Arizona is always a treat but the winter season tends to bring certain rarities to the region. For several weeks I had read about a Streak-Backed Oriole (code 4) regularly appearing at a remote homestead’s orange slice feeders on the AZ/NM border. Despite its supposed “reliability”, there is always a chance of missing any bird. But this immature male was very cooperative even with a Javelina underneath it!

Streak-Backed Oriole (code 4)

Streak-Backed Oriole (code 4)



The owner of this property takes care of the birds and travel-weary birders as evidenced by the numerous feeders and neatly arranged lawn chairs. Other gorgeous species which deserved digital zoom attention include the Pyrrhuloxia, Gambel’s Quail, Black-throated Sparrow and Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay (a recent split from the “Western Scrub-Jay” and while not rare…a new bird species for the life list!).



Gambel's Quail

Gambel’s Quail

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay

Woodhouse’s Scrub-Jay

The Rufous-Backed Robin (code 3) is another Mexican thrush which typically appears in Southern Arizona in January. Two of these were recently reported…both a couple of hours away from where I was but in somewhat different directions. I chose the western location (Rio Rico). Upon arrival I met a Dallas birder who claimed this secretive, non-vocal visitor was not being consistently seen in any particular area of “the spot”. Bad choice. With three hours of light and two hours to drive north of Tucson, I decided to pursue the Rufous-Backed Robin which apparently likes pomegranates. Set back on private property, the deciduous fruit-bearing shrub was easy to see…with a telescope. But the birding Gods once again rewarded me. A blurry 500M telephoto shot but no doubt this is not an American Robin…can you tell the difference?

Rufous-Backed Robin

Rufous-Backed Robin

Post-Script: As excited as I was in my own little birding adventure, the BIG news for any birder this year, maybe even decade, was the discovery of a Ross’s Gull in Half Moon Bay, California on Friday. Probably another sign of climate upheaval, this true arctic bird has basically only been seen in Barrow, Alaska in the Fall. Confirmation of multiple Saturday sightings via social media gave me no choice but to alter my air tickets…Southwest is very cooperative…yesterday evening and prepare to leave for SF this morning (Sunday). At 10pm last night I checked the San Mateo rare bird reports again to make sure, I don’t know why, OCD I guess. And discovered both in words and photos that yesterday afternoon the Ross’s Gull was “predated” by a Peregrine Falcon! I am now headed home.

About George C. Wood

A birder since age ten, but not necessarily an avid "lister", I am closing in on 700 (*800!) species seen in North America.....hoping to capture each sighting with my camera.
This entry was posted in Quest for 700 (*800!). Bookmark the permalink.

24 Responses to NOT just any Oriole and Robin

  1. burkebiz says:

    Whewww…I am travel-weary just reading this! Great job, curious industrious George!! KB

  2. Andrew Mozino says:

    So when are you going to be birding in Key West?

    Sent from my iPhone


  3. David Simpson says:

    Always a pleasure to get the update from the passionate George Wood!

  4. TomMason says:

    Those devious Peregrine Falcons! The Black-throated Sparrow was stunning. Great photos!

  5. Jeffrey Dingle says:

    You are kicking ass!!

    Never knew there was a ‘Robin Red Back’…

    Sent from myPhone


  6. Anne Wood says:

    George, I do love your Blogs. And that Sparrow, that black throat, is a superb photo I keep wondering about an enlarged picture and painting it – what a task >

  7. usernamespm89 says:

    Very cool, George!  Sounds like quite a trip. Stephen McConnell h) 610.642.2133 w) 215.495.6531

    From: birdtalesblog To: Sent: Sunday, January 15, 2017 12:07 PM Subject: [New post] NOT just any Oriole and Robin #yiv8995224243 a:hover {color:red;}#yiv8995224243 a {text-decoration:none;color:#0088cc;}#yiv8995224243 a.yiv8995224243primaryactionlink:link, #yiv8995224243 a.yiv8995224243primaryactionlink:visited {background-color:#2585B2;color:#fff;}#yiv8995224243 a.yiv8995224243primaryactionlink:hover, #yiv8995224243 a.yiv8995224243primaryactionlink:active {background-color:#11729E;color:#fff;}#yiv8995224243 | George C. Wood posted: “Birding Arizona is always a treat but the winter season tends to bring certain rarities to the region. For several weeks I had read about a Streak-Backed Oriole (code 4) regularly appearing at a remote homestead’s orange slice feeders on the AZ/NM border.” | |

  8. Jim Buck says:

    Beautiful, and beautifully described!

  9. Doug Southgate says:

    Good to see your posts again, George. Sorry you didn’t get to Half Moon Bay, though; my wife and I drove through there a couple weeks ago – on our way from San Francisco, where our son’s working at UCSF, to a visit with a retired colleague in Carmel.

  10. Jeff Day says:

    So cool, George, well done! Sad about the Ross’s Gull, but look forward to all stories live in person tomorrow. Such great photos once again!

  11. Cheers Jeff….a most satisfying and efficient bird trip! Home 36 hours early.

  12. Joe Knowles says:

    Terrific reading, George — and I learned a new word: “predated”, which sounds almost gentle. Question, though — what is a “rufous” back?

  13. Thanks Joe. Rufous refers to color, orange/red.

  14. Mike O. Birdman says:

    George great stuff! Once you left for AZ I knew exactly what you were going for. Great birds. I sure wish my boss would let me chase some of these rarities.. LOL. take care and hope to see and bird with you soon. Mike

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