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American Dipper, The Aquatic Song Bird.

The year is winding down and next month begins a new year of birding.  This Saturday on Christmas eve we went out to Deming, Washington to view the congregation of Bald Eagles along the Nooksack River. It was a beautiful day with fresh snow covering the rocky gravel bar and river bank. The Sun was out and wind was to minimum to none which made for a pleasant walk along the river. There was heavy fog in some places and the Eagle where sparsely located along the river. While waiting for Eagle activity to develop we noticed a pair of American Dippers in the fast current of the river. They disappeared as quickly as they appeared, however we were lucky enough to see them on another section of the river.

The American Dipper is a dark grey chunky bird that may have a touch of brown tint on its head. If you watch closely when they blink, you will get a flash of white because they have white feathers on their eyelids. The Dipper is North America’s only true aquatic songbird. The Dipper catches all of it food under swift moving streams by swimming or walking on the stream bottom. The Dippers we saw were catching what look like small fish and eating Salmon eggs. It has long legs, and once on the bottom of the stream you will see that it bobs its body up and down. It was interesting to watch them walk, swim, and what looked like surfing the currents and then to pop out with ease. To be able to survive in cold waters during the winter, the American Dipper has a low metabolic rate, extra oxygen-carrying capacity in its blood, and a thick coat of feathers. They also produce more oil than most birds, which may help keep them warmer when seeking food underwater.

We watched the little birds and had the opportunity to get some excellent photographs of the Dippers being Dippers.



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