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American Dipper Cinclus mexicanus


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American Dipper
credit: Dominic Sherony/CCSA

© Lang Elliot/ (audio)

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Family: Cinclidae, Dippers view all from this family

Description ADULT Has dark blue-gray plumage overall, with brownish wash sometimes visible on head. Bill is dark and relatively stout and long legs are pale. JUVENILE Similar to adult, but pale feather margins on underparts create scaly appearance, wing feathers have pale margins, and bill is dull yellow.

Dimensions Length: 7-8 1/2" (18-22 cm)

Habitat Widespread and fairly common, but almost entirely restricted to rocky streams and rivers. Mostly resident and rather sedentary, although birds from high altitudes are often obliged to descend to lower stretches of river by winter ice.

Observation Tips Easy to see on suitable rivers and streams within range.

Range Western Canada, Rocky Mountains, Northwest, Southwest, Plains, Alaska, California

Voice Song comprises a series of whistled phrases, each repeated a few times; call is a sharp tzeet.

Discussion Stocky, short-tailed bird invariably associated with fast-flowing water. Despite its uniform and rather undistinguished plumage, unmistakable because of its body form, habitat preference, and habits. Typically seen perched on stones in midstream, often bobbing up and down; tail is often cocked. Feeds on submerged aquatic invertebratesómostly insect larvae and nymphsócaught either by foraging in shallows or completely submerging itself and walking around the rocks underneath the water. White eyelids look striking and flash in direct sunlight when bird blinks. Flies on whirring wingbeats, usually low over water. Sexes are similar.