Wednesday, October 26, 2016

American Dipper

My color-blind Dad was a trooper with his birding sons. He laughed at us, however, when he read that American Dippers bob “spasmodically” in rushing mountain streams. In 1965, we found one in western Mexico. Spasmodic is an odd word, but this thrush-sized aquatic songbird does body-pump its way from rock to rock, sometimes even disappearing under the water. There they are carnivores, eating aquatic insects, invertebrates and even small fish and fish eggs (Wilson and Kingery 2011).
Whenever I visit the Rocky Mountains, I am on the lookout for Dippers. Years ago I read that Dippers can be found at Tumwater Falls next to Olympia. I immediately accepted my son’s offer on 19 September for a family outing to Tumwater Falls Park. Erika found this dipper when she noticed the water splashing strangely in the creek. Dippers feed in nearly freezing water. To survive this habitat, dippers have a low metabolic rate and, compared to other birds, are able to store more oxygen in their blood. Their feathers are exceptionally thick and water resistant (Wilson and Kingery 2011).  Even under water, as you can see in the final photo, the dipper does not appear to be getting wet! (Our bird’s yellow bill indicates this is an immature.)

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