Tag Archive: American dipper

Dipper whats over there PS SS WM

About a month ago I had a great encounter with an American Dipper. It started off with me getting a shot of it looking off into the distance at something that caught its eye. Notice the ice crystals on the legs!  No big deal for a dipper!

Dipper with stickleback swimming PS SS WM

Seconds later it was diving into the frigid waters and hunting down a fish. With water droplets beading off the feathers, it surfaced and started swimming towards me to the nearest bank. The fish squirmed back and forth but couldn’t break free from the tight grip on the tail. These fish are known as sticklebacks, aptly named for the multiple sharp spines that run along their backs. This didn’t seem to deter the dipper though. It managed to avoid the spines and once to shore the fish was quickly put out of its misery.

Dipper stickleback water splashing PS SS WM

Water droplets fly as the dipper smacks the fish against the ice to kill it. Once dead, the bird took a brief break before it picked the fish up again and repeatedly smacked it against the ice. This continued for several minutes with the dipper slowly moving closer and closer to me. The only explanation I can think of for why it continued to hit the fish against the ice was that it needed to blunt the sharp large spines before it could swallow the fish whole.

Dipper stickleback beak back PS SS WM

At this point the dipper was a mere 5 feet from me.  Almost like a house cat that brings a mouse back to show off its catch! This was the final shot before it gulped the fish down and dove back into the water for another. Such an amazing sequence to see and I continue to marvel at these unique birds!


Dipper tongue out reflection log watermarkA funny photo for the day. I will let you decide if the dipper was sticking its tongue out at me, for the photo, or just because it can!

Fluffed Up

Dipper yellow water tail matching wood watermark

An American Dipper takes a break from hunting to fluff its feathers. Birds will do this for a variety of reasons. In this case the dipper purposely fluffed the feathers to trap air between the different layers. This serves two main functions. One is to keep the warm air close to the body to maintain its body temperature and the other is to get enough air between the feathers to improve buoyancy when diving for food. By doing so,  it easily floats back to the surface with minimal effort despite being weighed down by whatever food it manages to catch. A sick bird will also appear fluffed but this is accompanied by other signs such as lethargy, decreased alertness such as closing of the eyelids and usually thin body condition. As for the photo, it is one of my favourites because of the soft yellow tinge to the water created by the setting sun and the way the bird’s tail feathers match the angle and pattern of the splintered bark.