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European dipper.jpg
European dipper
Cinclus cinclus
Scientific classification
Kingdom Information
Domain Eukaryota
Kingdom Animalia
Subkingdom Bilateria
Branch Deuterostomia
Phylum Information
Phylum Chordata
Sub-phylum Vertebrata
Infraphylum Gnathostomata
Class Information
Superclass Tetrapoda
Class Aves
Sub-class Neornithes
Infra-class Neoaves
Order Information
Superorder Passerimorphae
Order Passeriformes
Sub-order Passeres
Family Information
Superfamily Muscicapoidea
Family Cinclidae
Genus Information
Genus Cinclus
Species Information
Species C. cinclus
C. leucocephalus
C. mexicanus
C. pallasii
C. schulzi
Population statistics

Dipper refers to five species of wren-like songbirds of the family Cinclidae, and noted for their ability to hunt and feed in or under running water.


Dippers are small-to-medium-sized birds, roughly the size of sparrows, and are between six and eight inches long. All dippers are a uniform color, either grey or brown, but individual species are characterized by distinctive patches of white or rufus.

The name "dipper" comes from their observed habit of feeding. They completely dip their heads in water many times a minute, a bobbing motion which also continues while above water when looking for food. They also completely submerse themselves under water, using their long legs to walk across the stream bed; they also use their wings as a swimming aid. Food consists of aquatic insects and insect larvae, flying insects, and small crustaceans. Small fish, tadpoles, and worms are sometimes taken, but consist of a small overall proportion of their diet.

A distinctive "wing-flashing" or "wing-flicking" are done by the birds. Researchers speculate that the flashing is done either to startle their insect prey, or alert other birds to threats.[1]

The species in Europe and North America are also known by the name "water ouzel", based upon an Old English word for the European blackbird (Turdus merula).[2][3]


There are five species of dipper, with up to 37 subspecies[4]


Dippers are found in streams characterized by clean, unpolluted rushing water with a rocky bottom. The shorelines have good cover, with cliff sides or overhanging trees or other vegetation which also provide nesting locations. Dippers do not migrate; they stay in favored locations year-round, though they may move to other nearby streams or rivers which are unfrozen during winter.


Females choose nesting sites between 6 and 20 feet above the water, in a cliff ledge, small crevasse, or attached to a man-made object such as a bridge, provided the site is near water. The nest itself is about a foot in diameter, and consists of an inner layer of grass and bark, and an outer layer of moss, with the moss designed to collect moisture and keep the interior dry. The opening to the nest is from the bottom.

Inside the nest 4 to 5 eggs are laid, with an incubation period of 17 days. The young are fed by both parents for up to 26 days. Although monogamous, dippers will lead solitary lives when the nesting period is over.


Wild cats, hawks, and owls occasionally kill dippers for food, but man is the chief threat due to pollution cast into streams and alteration of habitat, such as the construction of dams which can restrict the flow of swift-moving water. At this time four dipper species are listed in the IUCN Red List are categorized as "least concern"; the exception is C. schulzi, where it is listed as vulnerable[5] due to increased development in Bolivia and Argentina.