Ian’s Bird of the Week – White-throated Dipper ~ by Ian Montgomery
Newsletter – 8-5-12
Here’s another species from Bushy Park in Dublin, the White-throated Dipper, this time on the River Dodder. This featured as bird of the week 5 years ago, so please forgive the repetition but I have some nice photos to share. Dippers – there are 6 species world-wide – are rather special in that they are the only truly aquatic Passerines (song birds), living exclusively on and in fast flowing streams and rivers and getting all their food from the water. They are dumpy, short-tailed, starling-sized birds and, as they often cock their tails, look a bit like giant (Winter) Wrens.
They also build domed nests but the resemblance to wrens ends there, though, and they are unrelated belonging to their own family, the Cinclidae. They feed on aquatic larvae, such as Caddis Fly larvae, and other invertebrates such as freshwater crustaceans and molluscs.
Not only do they wade and swim with ease, they will also walk along the bottom of the stream gripping onto stones with their strong feet and even dive, using their wings to propel themselves under water.
The bird in the third photo is almost completely submerged, and if you look carefully at the fourth photo, the brown shape in the centre is a completely submerged one with only a little eddy to show where it went under the surface.
They use their slightly upturned bill to probe for food under rocks and stones. The one in the fifth photo has just surfaced with a tasty grub.
This same bird only moments before had appeared with a Caddis Fly larva in its characteristic tube, made out of spun silk and often camouflaged with attached sand, sixth photo. The presence of Caddis Fly larvae is supposed to indicated a healthy river system, though the depressing amount of water-borne litter in the River Dodder makes it look otherwise.
We saw Dippers on most occasions when we took the dogs for a walk. It’s popular jogging and dog-walking spot and the Dippers are used to disturbance and are remarkably approachable, being usually rather shy. They nest here too, and the slight bemused looking individual in the seventh photo is a recently-fledged juvenile, distinguishable by the scaly pattern on the chest, the overall grey colour and the pale legs.
I’ve seen Brown Dippers in the Himalayas in Sikkim, White-capped Dippers in the Andes in Ecuador and American Dippers in the Cascade Mountains of Northeastern California. The White-throated Dipper is a bird of mainly and often icy, highland streams in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. Seeing them so easily in suburban Dublin, between Terenure and Rathfarnham 6 km from the city centre (take the 15B bus) is truly wonderful.
Ian Montgomery, Birdway Pty Ltd,
454 Forestry Road, Bluewater, Qld 4818
Tel 0411 602 737 firstname.lastname@example.org
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Let the rivers clap their hands; Let the hills be joyful together before the LORD, (Psalms 98:8 NKJV)
What an amazing little bird. Its ability to swim and walk underwater is very interesting. Thanks again, Ian, for sharing another of your adventures.
As Ian mentioned they are in the Cinclidae family. There are five species in that family. After checking out his photos, check the Birds of the World page here.
Ian’s Cinclidae Family page.
Cinclidae – Dipper Family
Dippers – Wikipedia
Dippers – IBC