American Dipper
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General description.

Wren-like, the "American Dipper" is a "water ouzel", the only purely aquatic perching bird in North America. It will plunge after an insect and disappear into a torrent, literally 'flying' underwater, assisted by powerful, rounded wings and strong legs and feet. It can stay submerged for as long as thirty seconds. Some twenty feet from his original dive, the American Dipper will surface and swim toward the shore, having secured its lunch. Once back on 'Terra firma', he bobs about, some forty or sixty times a minute, giving him the Soubriquet, "teeter bird". This incredible creature can also walk on the bottom of any body of water. Movable flaps or scales close over each nostril enabling it to perform this amazing feat. An enlarged preen gland supplies oil for waterproofing.

Female appearance.

The female "American Dipper's" plumage is identical to the male's.

Juvenile appearance.

The immature have spotted breasts, manifesting the family relationship to thrushes.

Flight pattern.

After emerging from the water, the "American Dipper" takes to the air, skimming the surface of the stream with rapid, whirring wing beats.

Breeding habits.

The "American Dipper" breeds in Alaska and the Aleutians. Pairs can produce and raise two broods in a year.

Calls or song.

The Dipper chirps a sharp "zeet", but can also produce a sweet, clear melody of trills like those of any wren.

Population and distribution.

The "American Dipper" resides along fast-moving streams in the mountainous regions of western North America. This bird does not migrate, but merely seeks lower altitudes, in winter, in search of running water.

Nesting habits.

The female "American Dipper" builds a nest near the water, sometimes on a rock midstream. She might also use the root system of a waterlogged tree stump, occasionally even hiding it behind a waterfall. She weaves a globe of moss and grass, about a foot in diameter, with an arched entrance at one side.

Similar birds:

Rock Wren Photo Rock Wren
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