American Dippers (Cinclus Mexicanus)

This mother’s day weekend, my family and I traveled to Sweet Creek Falls, which is a beautiful trail between Veneta, OR and Florence, OR. After walking along the trail for about a 1/4 mile, we walk down to a beautiful, large waterfall. The waterfall flowed very quickly, and on the other side of the stream, were two American Dippers whom appeared to be bobbing up and down a little, with their feet planted on a thick branch.

American Dipper, photographed by Dominic Sherony

American Dipper, photographed by Dominic Sherony

The dippers dip their heads into the water, (sometimes up to 60 times per minute) the dipping movement is what some people think, gives this bird their name, but really, they are named for their strange behavior, where they stand near or in the water and bob,  or “dip” up and down.

Identifying Them:

American Dippers are grey-brown, medium-sized, western birds. Both males and females are the same color and shape, with a length of 5-7 inches. American Dippers hunt for food underwater. Because of this, they have many adaptations that help them hunt for food underwater; they have an extra eyelid on each eye that enables them to see underwater, they have scales that close their nostrils when in water, and they produce more oil than most birds, which helps keep them a bit warmer when they’re searching for food in the water.

Habitat:

American Dippers live year-round in the western area of the United States. American Dippers are usually only found beside or near rivers or streams; that includes desert, coastal, mountain, or forest-trail streams. American Dippers mostly forage in rocky streams with fast-rushing water. These dippers aren’t migratory, though in winter they may move from icy streams, to ones that are less frosty, and sometimes in the spring or summer, they may move to where they can find more insect hatches.

Behavior:

These interesting dippers will wade, dive and swim in the water. American Dippers forage in the stream, walking about with their head in the water, moving pebbles and small stones around, looking for aquatic insects. The dippers dip their heads into the water, (sometimes up to 60 times per minute) the dipping movement is what some people think gives this bird their name, but really, they are named for their strange behavior, where they stand near or in the water and bob,  or “dip” up and down. Watch this video found on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qHbjNpLhvas Notice how the bird slightly bobs up and down, with his/her feet planted on the ground.
During courtship, one of the pair will stroll and sing in front of the other bird, with their wings drooped down and their bill pointed up.

Nesting and Nestlings:

American Dipper's nest, photographed by Owen Slater

American Dipper’s nest, photographed by Owen Slater

Lots of American Dippers are monogamous, but polygamy isn’t uncommon. Females build their nest which is upon a rocky, cliff ledge near or behind large rock formations, waterfalls or boulders. The nest is about 8-12 inches in diameter, made from mosses, grasses, and a bit of rootlets and twigs. Near the bottom of the nest, is the opening for them to fly up into.

Females usually have about 1-2 broods a season, with 4-5 nestlings per brood. Their eggs are small, white, and are incubated for about 1 – 1 1/2 weeks. Both parents feed their young until the leave the nest which is about 18-25 days after birth.

Diet:

Like most dippers, these birds eat mostly aquatic insects like larvae or worms, but will definitely eat small fish or fish eggs if they come across them. Flying insects like mosquitoes, mayflies, midges, or dragonflies, are insects, preferred by these dippers.

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About faithelise

I love learning about species of birds and want to be an Ornathologist. Writing about birds is my passion and I love every part of it!
This entry was posted in Bird Watching, nonfiction, Waders, Waders and Shorebirds and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to American Dippers (Cinclus Mexicanus)

  1. Love see this Dipper in action and add it one to my life list.Thanks for showing it to us.

  2. faithelise says:

    Thank you for commenting! It’s really cool to see them in person. They are really interesting birds and have loud, pretty calls.

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