American Dipper – Cinclus mexicanus

American Dipper – Cinclus mexicanus

One of the locations we visited on Victoria Island was Goldstream Provincial Park, which is an old growth temperate rainforest. Besides photographing the beautiful scenery, we were looking for three species of birds, Pacific Wren, Red-bellied Sapsucker, and the American Dipper.

The first bird we found was the American Dipper – Cinclus mexicanus. The American dipper’s notoriety is that it is the world’s only aquatic songbird. It used to be known as the water ouzel. The American dipper lives in western North America with the range from Alaska to California and isolated populations in Central America. They live in swift streams where they have plenty of boulders to perch on. They nest 6 to 20 feet above a deep portion of the stream, under bridges, on cliffs, or underwater falls.

American Dipper – Cinclus mexicanus
American Dipper – Cinclus mexicanus

Dippers food consists of mainly aquatic invertebrates which they feed by waiting to fast-moving water and some virgin airheads to catch their prey, they also can do the same while swimming on top the water like a duck or they dive to the bottom of the stream and walk along it by grabbing at rocks.

American Dipper – Cinclus mexicanus
Looking for food
American Dipper – Cinclus mexicanus
Looking for food
American Dipper – Cinclus mexicanus
Looking for food
American Dipper – Cinclus mexicanus under the water catching food

Dippers have developed physical adaptations to help them thrive in their aquatic habitat. They can hold their breath for up to 30 seconds, they have stubby wings and tail feathers which are better suited for swimming, they have twice as many contour feathers and a thick down layer to help keep them warm in the cold mountain streams. They can change the curvature of their lenses so they can see above and below water. To help maintain their feathers waterproofed this they preen longer and more often than other songbirds. They close their nictitating membrane which allows them to see underwater.

American Dipper – Cinclus mexicanus Bathing
American Dipper – Cinclus mexicanus Bathing with nictitating membrane closed
American Dipper – Cinclus mexicanus Bathing
American Dipper – Cinclus mexicanus Bathing
American Dipper – Cinclus mexicanus Bathing
American Dipper – Cinclus mexicanus preening

American Dipper – Cinclus mexicanus preening
American Dipper – Cinclus mexicanus
Preening