Dipper

Cinclus cinclus

18cm

Appearance

A stout bird with quite a stumpy tail that is usually moving up and down. Sexes are similar. Plumage is mostly greyish-brown on top, the head is brownish-red, breast and throat are white, and the belly is a chestnut colour that darkens towards the rump. It has short wings with rounded ends. Juvenile birds are mostly grey, their feathers edged in brown to give a scaly appearance. Underparts are pale and barred.

Habitat

Tends towards fast upland waterways, and may also be found on the edges of lakes in upland territories. Occasionally goes to lower rivers with bridges or weirs.

Character

Often perches on rocks with its tail twitching up and down. Submerges in water and walks along the bottom of waterways in search of food. Usually feeds alone, and pairs roost together and occasionally associate with other pairs. Flies low with rapid wingbeats, often near the surface of water, and has very strong legs.

Food

Eats invertebrates found on the riverbeds and at the bottom of other waterways. Diet includes caddis flies, stoneflies, mayflies and freshwater shrimps.

Breeding

Female lays 4-5 eggs between February and June, and she incubates them for about 16 days. Young can fly at about 20-24 days old. Males sometimes mate with a second female. Pairs may have two broods.

Population

Most resident Dippers seldom travel far. Birds from northern Europe may migrate, some visiting the east of the region. Approximately 12000 pairs breed in the UK and 2500-10 000 in Ireland.

Observation Tips

The Dipper has a fairly wide distribution, particularly around central Wales, northern England and southern Scotland; the key to locating them is searching for quickly moving water. Boulders with droppings may give their presence away.

Voice

Utters a piercing 'striiz' call, and has a melodious trilling song.
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