|Conservation status||Least concern|
The white-capped dipper (Cinclus leucocephalus) 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.
White-capped dippers are small birds, roughly the size of a sparrow at just over six inches long. The color is a dark gray to black, with a white patches on the top of the head, throat and chest, and between the shoulders.
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.
- Cinclus leucocephalus leucocephalus
- Cinclus leucocephalus leuconotus
- Cinclus leucocephalus rivularis
White-capped 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.
Females choose nesting sites between 3,000 and 8,000 feet elevation in the mountains. 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. leucocephalus is listed as least concern on the IUCN Red List, despite having an overlap in its range with the more vulnerable rufous-throated dipper (Cinclus schulzi). The difference may be the nesting and feeding sites of C. leucocephalus within rain forest and tropical areas, which have been difficult to alter in favor of human development.