European Dipper, Norway’s National Bird

White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) by Ian

White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) by Ian

European Dipper, Norway’s National Bird

by Dr. James J. S. Johnson

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matthew 6:34)

EUROPEAN DIPPER

Luzon Bleeding-heart by Dan

Orni-Theology

The official bird of Norway is the White-throated Dipper (a/k/a European Dipper: Cinclus cinclus). Unlike the American Dipper (which is dark-black all over), it has a mix of colors: brown head, white throat/bib, chestnut belly, and blackish back and tail.

As the range map shows, this little bird is known to range over all of Norway, as a year-round resident. This bird needs running freshwater, because that is where its primary source of food resides. And Norway has lots of fast-running freshwater, especially as mountain snow melts and flows downhill, in crevices, waterfalls, streams, and other drainage pathways that lead westward to the sea.

White-throated Dipper aka European Dipper

White-throated Dipper aka European Dipper

This passerine (i.e., perching songbird) bird is thus deemed an “aquatic” bird, due to its familiar habit of dipping into freshwater for food – and “walking” across the streambed as it fishes (underwater) for insect larvae and other edible morsels found in streambeds.

Specifically, this dipper has too behavioral movements that fit its name: (1) as it perches near quick-flowing stream-waters, it often (and suddenly – some say “spasmodically”) bobs, with its tail propped up (somewhat like a wren), near the splashing water; and (2) it dives into such lotic waters, sometimes after wading into the water’s edge: then submerges itself by quickly plunging in (or diving in), with a small splash. While underwater it seems to swim, though its wings actually “fly” underwater, or (at times when the current is stronger) the submerged bird vigorously “rows” its sturdy wings, like oars, to resist the under-current, in order to steady its underwater position.

Dipper under water by Getty Images

Dipper under water by Getty Images

The Dipper can also use its strong prehensile toes (i.e., it can grip with its feet, almost like a human hand) to grab onto projecting substrates on the bottom of a stream, while simultaneously straining its muscles (and keeping its head bent down so that it can see what is on the streambed) to prevent it from rising to the water’s surface – thus giving the appearance that it is “walking on the bottom” of the stream!

While underwater the dipper collects its food (which is often “epibenthic”, i.e., located on top of the stream-bottom sediments), such as caddisfly larvae (and other insect larvae), as well as small freshwater mollusks, fish, and amphibians – and a favorite freshwater crustacean, the thin amphipod shrimp (of the genus Gammarus, a genus containing marine “scud”, estuarial, and freshwater shrimps known for their detritivorous / scavenging habits).

What a strange bird! Yet it is determined to use its anatomy and strength to get food for the day, even appearing to defy gravity while it does. It may not be a huge buffet banquet table, by our standards, but it is enough – so the bird eats what it needs, one day at a time.

Just face one day of challenges at a time – what a concept!

Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof. (Matthew 6:34)

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Orni-theology

James J S Johnson

Dippers – Cinclidae

Good News

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4 thoughts on “European Dipper, Norway’s National Bird

  1. Pingback: Dippers and their insect prey, videos | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Dippers of northern Finland | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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