Rufous-throated dipper (Cinclus schulzi) is a species of songbird of the family Cinclidae, found in South America, and noted for its ability to hunt and feed in or under running water.
Rufous-throated dippers are small birds, roughly the size of a sparrow at six inches long. The color is a brownish-gray with a blaze of rufous-red on the throat, hence the name. The only other color is a band of white along the base of the primary wing feathers, displayed when the bird is in flight.
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.
Rufous-throated 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.
Their range is the eastern slope of the Andean Mountains of central South America in Bolivia and northern Argentina.
Females choose nesting sites in what is called the alder zone, between 4,000 and 8,000 feet elevation in the mountains; the zone is named for a species of tree (Alnus acuminata) in areas the birds favor. Nests are constructed 6 to 20 feet above the water, in a cliff ledge or small crevasse. 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.
C. schulzi is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List due to increased development in Bolivia and Argentina; the overall population is not more than 4,000 birds and decreasing. The alteration of river channels at lower altitudes, pollution and run-off from the alteration of the land to livestock grazing and farming, and the introduction of trout has lead to a reduction of over-all dipper numbers. However, many areas of dipper habitat are still inaccessible to human development, with several proposals being studied to increase the bird's population in several national parks adjacent to alder areas.