American Dipper

American Dippers are cool birds. Their gray plumage might be considered plain by some, but I think that is outweighed by how well they have adapted to a specific environment. Dippers are songbirds, not waterfowl, that have a preference for fast moving mountain streams. They live year round next to their chosen stream, feeding off of insect larvae that are found in those streams. They actually submerge themselves in the water in their search for food. To handle that cold, fast moving water, they have more down, a larger preening gland that provides oil for waterproofing feathers, the ability to close their nostrils under water, and an extra eyelid to help them see under water.

At first, I thought that Dippers got their name from their aquatic habits. In other words, they liked to "take a dip" in the water. But alas, my guess was wrong. The Dipper's name comes from its habit of repeatedly bobbing its whole body up and down during pauses in its search for food. In my brief bit of searching online, I mostly read that the behavior was still an unsolved mystery. My favorite theory was that the bobbing was "just fun" :-)

While in Utah for the ABA convention, I saw American Dippers on several occasions. They were fascinating to watch. I had the opportunity to get photos of an American Dipper at two locations. The first was during a brief stop at Sundance Resort. A small stream flowing next to a path had a Dipper that was actively feeding. The second photo shows that bird with its head under water looking for a meal. American Dippers will not only stick their head under water like this bird, but also walk under water on the bottom of the stream. I did not witness the walking under water trick on this trip. Hopefully I can change that on some future trip.

The last photo here is of an American Dipper at Vivian Park. This bird had a nest with chicks under a small foot bridge. The group I was with stood quietly on the bridge and waited for the bird to come back with a beak full of food. The bird would come back to the bridge, stop to see what our intentions were, decide that hungry chicks were more important than gawking birdwatchers, and then fly under the bridge to serve a meal.

American Dipper

American Dipper

American Dipper

2 comments:

HANNIBAL said...

I've never heard of them! Then I find out they are mountain birds, and that is why...Amazing shots--the crispness you capture is awesome! Raw?

Todd Dixon said...

Nope, I do not currently shoot RAW. I use the biggest JPG format. I have been told that I really ought to shoot RAW, because it gives much more post-processing flexibility. I believe it, but since I am too lazy to invest much energy into post-processing, I just keep shooting those JPGs. I do invest some energy in post-processing, but not much.