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Dippers: Cinclidae

Eurasian Dipper (cinclus Cinclus): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Eurasian dippers, also known as English dippers or white-throated dippers, are small round-bodied birds with short tails. They are only 6.7 to 7.9 inches (17 to 20 centimeters) long. Males weigh between 1.9 and 2.7 ounces (53 to 76 grams), and females weigh 1.6 to 2.5 ounces (46 to 72 grams). Most of them have dark brown feathers on their heads, backs, and bellies, with white chests and throats. Some birds have blackish feathers on their backs with chestnut brown on their undersides and only white on their breasts and chins. The black-bellied dipper has no brown on its belly, while a subspecies in Asia has a white underside.

Geographic range: Eurasian dippers can be found in Great Britain, Norway, Spain, Italy, Greece, and France, as well as western Europe, Turkey, North Africa, and Asia from the Himalayas to China. In winter, birds in Scandinavia will move south into Poland and Russia.

Habitat: Like other dippers, Eurasian dippers nest near swift-moving mountain streams. Sometimes, this species can be found near the rocky shores of lakes.

Diet: Eurasian dippers usually feed on the larvae of aquatic insects like caddis worms and beetles. They also like freshwater mollusks, water fleas, newly hatched fish, and roe.

Behavior and reproduction: Eurasian dippers behave as other dippers, and feed underwater. Both sexes sing and have a "zil-zil" call. Males change their call to "clink-clink" when they are seeking the attention of females during mating.

This species generally mates for life and will often have two or three broods. They will separate after the young are on their own and will return to their home nests in the spring.

Both sexes help build their oval nests above rushing streams or rivers, usually in rock faces or in the support pieces of bridges. One to seven white eggs are laid and incubated by the female for twelve to eighteen days. Both parents feed the young birds for twenty to twenty-four days.

Eurasian dippers and people: This species, like most dippers, has no special significance to humans.

Conservation status: Though the Eurasian dipper is not threatened, most populations have shown declines due to water pollution and increased acids caused by runoff from planting evergreen trees. If the water quality improves, the birds return to their former nesting sites. ∎



Brewer, David, and Barry Kent Mackay. Wrens, Dippers, and Thrashers: A Guide to the Wrens, Dippers, and Thrashers of the World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001.

Robbins, Michael. Birds (Fandex Family Field Guides). New York: Workman Publishing Company, 1998.

Tyler, Stephanie J. Dippers. San Diego, CA: Elsevier Science & Technology, 1994.

Weidensaul, Scott. Birds (National Audubon Society First Field Guides). New York: Scholastic Trade, 1998.


Barber, Robert E. "Joy-bird." American Forests (Spring 1996): 34–35.

Osborn, Sophie A. H. "Anting by an American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus)." Wilson Bulletin (September 1998): 423–425.

Turbak, Gary. "The Bird That Files Through Water: Scientists Continue to Marvel at the American Dipper. A Species Remarkably Adapted for Life Near Raging Rivers." National Wildlife (June–July 2000).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceBirdsDippers: Cinclidae - Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, American Dipper (cinclus Mexicanus): Species Accounts, Eurasian Dipper (cinclus Cinclus): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, DIPPERS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS