Other Birds - Sounds Wild


Download Episode: Dippers (MP3 file 1,407 kB)



On a sunny summer day a dipper's song carries above the rush of stream water. Dippers are territorial and sing to advertise their claim to a stretch of creek. Both the male and the female sing, and will drive away any intruding dippers. It's likely that this dipper and its mate have a nest nearby. Dipper nests are hollow; basketball-size bundles of moss and woven grass, tucked into root wads or rocks beside the stream bank or under small waterfalls.

Dippers are well-named; they dip and bob as they perch on streamside rocks.

These wren-like aquatic songbirds are well adapted to stream life. They feed underwater on snails, insects and small fish, walking along the bottom of the stream or swimming with their wings. They can fly through the water and burst from the surface to fly straightaway over the water. They have a transparent inner eyelid they close to protect their eyes from spray and water. Like all songbirds they have a preen gland that produces oil they use to groom and protect their feathers - but the preen gland on a dipper is ten times larger than other songbirds and a well-preened dipper is waterproof, with a downy layer of under feathers keeping the bird warm in icy Alaska streams.