There are only 5 species of the Dipper which have been discovered as of today (Gilliard 1958) with just one being found in North America (Reilly 1968). The American Dipper is a surprisingly interesting creature, no matter how boring it may look on the outside.
The dippers are dumpy aquatic birds with a short tail. An adult has dark sooty-black plumage with a conspicuous bright white bib, and the plumage on the head and below the bib is reddish-brown. Juveniles are greyish in color. The popular name ‘dipper’ refers to this bird’s character of ‘curtseying’ when perched. The song is a slow, soft warbling and the call is a penetrating ‘zits’.
When a person sees the American Dipper and also hears their lovely songs, it is almost a guarantee that he or she will become captivated. They always happily sing year-round, no matter the weather condition outside. Whether it is cloudy or sunny, their songs are always the same (Muir 2013). The amount of water and time of year may have an influence on the tone in which they sing. Their song is sung strong and high when streams are full and softly when there’s little water (Reilly 1968). Their song has an excellent varied melody same to the song of a mockingbird. There is a combination of trilling, gurgling, and bubbling.
Dippers have evolved a super ability to hunt underwater. Holding their wings outstretched, they can stabilize their weight and walk along the bottom of fast running streams and rivers. Dippers feed on a broad range of aquatic animals. They are found throughout most of the Middle East and Europe. Dippers are named for the dipping and bobbing movements they make while perched. They have a unique white breast and throat against their the dark brown-black plumage. A flash of their specialized white eyelids, used to protect their eyes when submerged, offers further identification when necessary.
Linear breeding territories are developed by pairs of dippers along appropriate rivers and maintained against intrusion by other dippers. Within their territory, the pairs must have a suitable nest site and the roost sites, but the major factor affecting the territory’s length is the availability of enough food to feed themselves and their broods. Therefore, the length of a territory may differ from almost 300 m to more than 2500 m.
Interesting Facts about Dippers:
- Dippers can stay under water for about 30seconds.
- Their weight ranges from 40-90 g while their size ranges from 14-22cm in length, with males bigger than females.
- Dippers are fully dependent on fast-flowing rivers or stream with clean water, secure nest sites and accessible food.
- Dippers are usually found in suitable freshwater habitat in the highlands of the Asia, Europe, and Americas.
- Unlike several other water birds, they are generally similar in form to numerous terrestrial birds (for instance, they lack webbed feet), but they have some physiological and morphological adaptations to their aquatic habitats.
- Their wings are relative small but strongly muscled, enabling them to be used as flippers underwater.
- They have nasal flaps to help prevent water from entering their nostrils.
- Their prey comprises primarily of invertebrates like blackflies, stoneflies, and caddisflies, as well as fish eggs and small fish.
- Dippers’ calls are very loud and high-pitched, being equal to calls made by other birds on fast rivers; their call frequencies ranges between a narrow range of 4.0 to 6.5 kHz, well above the torrent’s noise frequency less than 2 kHz.