Sunday, April 14, 2019

American Dipper

On 12 April, Erika and I hiked along Tumwater Falls, a city park in the middle of Olympia. We saw American Dippers there on a previous visit. Dippers are thrush-like, gray birds that feed along mountain streams. They are our only truly aquatic songbird, often submerging completely in search of food. On this trip, however, we thought way too much water cascaded down the falls for even dippers to handle.
Dippers used to be named Water Ouzels. The name was changed to dipper to conform with nomenclature of the four other dippers in other parts of the world. Dipper species are found North and South America, Europe, and Asia. The word dipper describes the bird’s habit of bobbing up and down at the water’s edge, alsmost if the bird was exercising. My father, who took us boys on our first birding forays in central Mexico, took delight in Blake’s calling these movements spasmodic bobs.
Dippers give the impression of being closely related to thrushes, and early traditional DNA research suggest that is the case. Willson and Kingery 2011 report that recent mitochondrial DNA research indicates that dippers are more closely related to starlings.

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