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North American Dipper

About North American Dipper

Thrush sized, plump bird that has a very short tail, often cocked, and strong legs, giving appearance of an overgrown wren. Plumage sooty gray with short white feathers on the eyelids, particularly noticeable on the lower eyelids; legs yellowish; bill blackish; eyes dark brown.

Breeding takes place in May and June. A pair will build a large domed nest of moss lined with dead leaves, located in a steep bank or under a bridge over fast moving water, or under a waterfall, which they will fly through to reach their nest. They may use this same nest for years or build a new one over the top to the old one. The female lays 3-6 white eggs that she incubates for 13-17 days.

There are five species of the dipper family: Two in Europe and Asia, two in South America, and the North American Dipper. All species live the same lifestyle. These are the only aquatic members of the perching bird order. Their closest relatives are the thrushes.

The North American Dipper is superbly adapted to feeding underwater. As it sits by the water it will dip its head to search for prey. When it finds food it will walk, swim or dive into the water. Using its strong, sturdy feet to grip tightly onto streambed rocks, it will walk against the current to avoid being swept away. It can even “fly” under the water with its powerful wingbeats.