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Dippers: Cinclidae

Physical Characteristics, Behavior And Reproduction, American Dipper (cinclus Mexicanus): Species Accounts, Eurasian Dipper (cinclus Cinclus): Species AccountsGEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, DIET, DIPPERS AND PEOPLE, CONSERVATION STATUS


Dippers can be found in Europe, Asia, North Africa, and the western regions of North and South America. Though conditions are suitable for dippers to nest in other areas, they have not done so.

Dippers make their nests above shallow mountain rivers and streams, behind waterfalls, and sometimes on rocky ledges beside mountain lakes. The water must be fast moving to keep it rich in oxygen and free of sediment and pollutants. Dippers will migrate south or to lower elevations when these water sources freeze in winter. The undersides of bridges over waterways and human-made nesting boxes have also become appropriate homes for dippers.

The main source of food for dippers is insect larvae (LAR-vee), small fish such as minnows, and fish roe, or eggs.

Dippers serve as an indicator species, a bird or animal whose presence reveals a specific characteristic, for good water quality.


Though other birds interact with ants, American dippers participate in active anting, or placing ants, one at a time, into their feathers. Scientists think that ants help control parasites such as mites by spraying formic acid into the bird's feathers.

Mining, pollution, and even the presence of evergreen trees can dump chemicals, acids, and wastes into waterways that can reduce dipper food supplies and eventually decrease their populations. Currently, these birds are not threatened, though their numbers fluctuate in response to pollution. However, one subspecies of Eurasian dipper is extinct, or died out, and several other groups are Vulnerable, facing a high risk of extinction.

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Animal Life ResourceBirds