- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Cinclidae
A bird that walks underneath the water, the slate-gray American Dipper is North America’s only truly aquatic songbird. It flits among midstream rocks and logs, rhythmically bobbing its tail, and then disappears for long moments to forage for aquatic larvae on the stream bottom, using its wings to negotiate the current. These birds build mossy, domed nests on boulders, cliff ledges, and bridges. The burbling song is evocative of the rushing whitewater streams this species calls home in western North and Central America.More ID Info
Find This Bird
Look for American Dippers on boulders or fallen logs along whitewater streams in western North America. Their characteristic dipping motion helps make them noticeable despite their subdued plumage. You may see dippers flying low to the water upstream or downstream, but rarely any distance away from the river course. Watch out for nests clinging to midstream boulders or under bridges, or for white-splattered rocks in midstream, for evidence dippers are in the area. Their long, burbling song is reminiscent of a Pacific or Winter Wren.
- Mirlo Acuático Norteamericano (Spanish)
- Cincle d'Amérique (French)
- Cool Facts
- The American Dipper is North America's only truly aquatic songbird.
- Dippers have a thin white line of feathers on each eyelid that create a white flash as the bird blinks.
- To survive in cold waters during the winter, the American Dipper has a low metabolic rate, extra oxygen-carrying capacity in its blood, and an extra thick coat of feathers that includes feathered eyelids.
- Unlike most other songbirds, but similar to ducks, the American Dipper molts all of its flight feathers at once in the late summer, rendering the bird flightless during this time.
- The oldest American Dipper was over 8 years old, when it was recaptured and released during a banding operation in South Dakota.