Dean M. Chriss
On the Lookout
(Click image to enlarge)
The American Dipper is North America's only truly aquatic songbird.
The name “dipper” comes from its habit of flexing its legs so its entire body
moves up and down in a dipping motion. This dipping takes place most frequently
when the birds are agitated. American Dippers, also known as water ouzels, catch
most of their food underwater in swiftly flowing streams. The bird can use its wings to help it "fly" completely submerged underwater and walk on
a stream bottom. There they probe under stones in the streambed looking for
aquatic insects, their larvae, fish eggs, small fish, and other food. The birds can also swim on
the water's surface to pick up floating insects or walk with only their head
submerged. American Dippers
do not migrate but they move from smaller streams to larger rivers that
remain unfrozen in winter, or follow insect hatches in spring or summer. The
bird's low metabolic rate, blood with extra oxygen carrying capacity, and a
thick coat of feathers allows it to survive in cold waters during winter months.
Land uses such as logging, mining and agriculture affect water quality and
reduce the availability of the American Dipper's aquatic prey.