American Dipper

American Dipper | Cinclus mexicanus

I was out scouting locations for International Rock Flipping Day (September 20) and spotted an expert invertebrate hunter hard at work on the Puntledge River in Courtenay, British Columbia. There’s a lot going on in the Puntledge River right now. This American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) was working the river along with a whole host of gulls and other scavengers. The reason? The fall Pink Salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha) run is well underway. Everywhere you look you can see, hear and smell that the fish are here.

I’ll save the fish for a later post.

Meet the Water Ouzel!

Dippers (or water ouzels) are aquatic songbirds that dive and swim in fast flowing streams. They’re searching for prey which is usually some sort of aquatic invertebrate like stonefly, caddisfly or mayfly. During salmon runs, they have been observed eating salmon eggs (a great source of protein). Alevin, and fry make up part of their diet as well.

These amazing birds are well adapted to their habitat. Dippers have an extra layer of feathers and an enlarged oil gland. Both are used for waterproofing to keep them dry. Their metabolic rate is low and the oxygen capacity of their blood is high. Both of these features enable it to keep warm in cold mountain streams. In addition, dippers have a nictating membrane or third eyelid that enables them to see underwater.

It is always great to see an American dipper. I enjoyed sitting on the side of the river watching this beautiful little bird dip and sing. I didn’t have much luck photographing invertebrates today. The light was poor and invertebrates few in number. However, this bird more than made up for that.

You can read more about the American Dipper here: