Sunday, July 29, 2012

American Dipper

Cinclus mexicanus
I confess, when I hear the term "Songbird," I usually think of a bird that lives up in the trees, flitting around eating seeds or insects. But today I learned that there are Songbirds that actually submerge into water for their food! Meet the American Dipper, the only truly aquatic Songbird in North America!

You'll find these birds around fast moving, rocky rivers. Their range runs down the western side of North America, from Alaska all the way down to Mexico. American Dippers are residents, and when it gets cold they move to larger rivers that do not freeze. The also adapt to the cold by having a thick coat of feathers and a low metabolism.

Did you know that American Dippers molt all their wing and tail feathers at once (a simultaneous molt) and cannot fly for a short period of time? Though many waterfowl species do this, most songbirds do not, making the Dippers even more unique (Songbirds molt, but it is a more gradual process).

American Dippers feed on underwater insects and larvae. They have membranes over their eyes that let them see well underwater, and have oily feathers that keep them insulated in the cold streams. When searching for food they will dip their entire body underwater over and over. That dipping motion is what gives them their name. They will also search for prey by walking on the river bottom!

IUCN Status : L:east Concern
Location : Western North America
Size : Length up to 7in (16cm)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Aves -- Order : Passeriformes
Family : Cinclidae -- Genus : Cinclus -- Species : C. mexicanus


  1. Replies
    1. Yes, they do. I had that paragraph worded really badly. Thanks for the catch!


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