Introduction The Dipper (Cinclus Cinclus) is a native British bird foundin most parts of the UK (As shown in figure 1) near fast-flowing rivers inupland areas and some lowland areas too. These birds are plump and short tailedin appearance and have a unique low whirring flight path.
The Dipper has some adaptationsto help it survive in this rough environment. It has very dense plumage to keepout the icy water. Its feathers are heavily waterproofed with copious oil fromits quite large preen-gland. Its body is streamlined so that the water flows pasteasily stopping friction for these birds to navigate fast.
Its legs and feetare strong in order to grip rocks around the water. The wings, which allow thebird to swim through the water and currents, have strong muscles to help pushagainst water resistance. The Dipper also has flaps over its nostrils thatclose when the bird has submerged stopping these species from breathing in thewater and finally, its eyes are designed to cope with vision in the medium ofwater allowing it to find food efficiently. Dippers, like a lot of river birds,are highly territorial birds. In their stormy habitat, communication can be aproblem and is thought that this is the explanation as to why Dippers dip.
TheDippers dip by flexing their legs rapidly, like a rapid curtsey, where theDippers do it repeatedly especially in territorial encounters; this makes it analmost certainly a signal showing a bird’s occurrence. Another signal isblinking. Dippers are unusual in having completely feathered eyelids, whichhappen to be white, and when a bird blinks they are highly visible.
Blinkingtends to occur with the dipping display, and is also probably a signal. Dippersmoisten their eyes but this is done by the transparent third eyelid, theso-called nictitating membrane. This is vital in order to clean the eyes fromany foreign objects. Habitat The Dipper is truly the world’s only tune-bird to be aquaticbased on habitual total involvement as a way of life.
Taking into account thatthese birds have no external adaptations to diving – no webbed feet etc. – itis expected that these birds take an easy option and be maybe half-aquatic,swimming around in still, and gentle water. The Dipper lives on rivers withstrong, challenging currents and white water, where even the ducks are hardlyseen. The Dipper acquires most of its prey from the stream bed by turning overpebbles with its strong beak for finding food that is hidden beneath them. Todo this efficiently it uses its wings to “fly” against the current as well keepingits wings on the riverbed. It also grips with its feet, holding on to theground to help prevent it from being moved by the currents Remarkably, a Dipperdoesn’t fly up and dive into the water, just as a other birds would, using itsmomentum to submerge. It can humbly walk into the water. At times, it willsplash in while flying, or jump in from a rock too, and it will float on itsbelly, with wings spread just like paddles.
It appears to be a master of itsenvironment. Dippers seem to be almost resistant to the cold. They sometimeshunt for food under the ice, and can be found in temperatures down to -45°Cparticularly in the most highest of altitudes of the Urals, although rivers areabandoned if they freeze over completely. The birds may move up to 1000 km tothe south, or simply downstream looking for a new habitat for the numbers tosurvive. FeedingThese birds are intelligent in finding food underwater. TheDipper mainly searches for its food under water for its main food source andtargets (aquatic invertebrates including mayfly nymphs and caddis flylarvae and small fish such as minnows) from the bottom of astream/river bed. These birds have evolved a body that is perfect for diving,swimming and walking on the river bed.
Swallowing food is mostly doneunderwater but it does bring in larger prey to land, undigested foods areregurgitated as pellets. Dippers are known to hunt for food along stream bangsby overturning rock and stones.Figure 1. ConservationThere isno conservation projects on/including the Dipper as of now, but reducingpollution can be beneficial for the species.
Additionally this species isclassed as a Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List. PopulationThe Dipper is in no serious threat of extinction atthis moment in time but local extinctions have been heard of; the population ofthe Dipper is relatively stable regionally. From 1970, Dippers have plummeted in west Wales, south-west and north-east Englandand in various parts of Scotland but the population in other areas have beenstable. This is due to an increase of pollutants in the air causing acidicstreams of water. This can have a huge impact on offspring as the acid causescalcium-deficiency in females leading to a reduction of the thickness ofeggshells. Fortunately, this catastrophic problem can be resolved by a simplesolution – coniferous trees.
These trap acidic pollutants stopping these fromcontaminating the land. Industrial pollution is the reason of the decline ofthe Dipper in Europe, while hydroelectric power affects the flow of the watercausing food shortages to where the Dippers live. Breeds Breedsnative to the UK, called gularis, are found in a relatively patchy distributionin south-west England. These are also native to Afghanistan, Albania,Algeria, Andorra, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Belgium, Bhutan,Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, China, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark,Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Iran –Islamic Republic of, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia,Lebanon, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia – the former YugoslavRepublic of, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Myanmar, Nepal, Netherlands,Norway, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russian Federation (Central AsianRussia, Eastern Asian Russia, European Russia), Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia,Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Ukraine andUzbekistan. Breeds native to only Irelandare called hibernicus and are found only on the outskirts of Ireland. Thesebreeds are found widespread in Europe stretching out to Russia and the Uralsand extending also into North Africa. Related species include: Rufous-throated dipper (Cinclus schulzi),Orange-billed babbler (Turdoides rufescens), Black-cheeked ant-tanager (Habiaatrimaxillaris), Jerdon’s bushlark (Mirafra affinis), Least flycatcher(Empidonax minimus), Amaui (Myadestes woahensis), Loveridge’s sunbird(Nectarinia loveridgei), Pine siskin (Carduelis pinus), Grey wagtail (Motacillacinerea), Australian yellow white-eye (Zosterops luteus), Mao (Gymnomyzasamoensis), Streak-capped spinetail (Cranioleuca hellmayri), White-tailedshrike-tyrant (Agriornis albicauda), Kofiau monarch (Monarcha julianae), LaSelle thrush (Turdus swalesi), Black-faced cuckoo-shrike (Coracinanovaehollandiae), Chestnut-bellied cotinga (Doliornis remseni), Russet-mantledsofttail (Thripophaga berlepschi), Cook Islands reed-warbler (Acrocephaluskerearako), Swainson’s warbler (Limnothlypis swainsonii ), Reunion starling(Fregilupus varius), Biak monarch (Monarcha brehmii), Namuli apalis (Apalislynesi), Rotuma myzomela (Myzomela chermesina), Whitethroat (Sylvia communis), Yellowweaver (Ploceus megarhynchus), White-capped tanager (Sericossypha albocristata),Royal parrotfinch (Erythrura regia), Spinifexbird (Eremiornis carteri) and Whistlingwarbler (Catharopeza bishopi). BreedingSome individuals keep both breeding and winterterritories which in some cases, may be the same.
They are defended from aboutSeptember onwards and may be owned by a pair, or by individuals of either sex.Both sexes have the ability to sing. The song is adapted to be heard over theroaring water, as one might expect as this species lives in a noisy habitat,and is a strained warble often with scratchy, harsh and sweet notes all mixedtogether. Regardless of their territorial bent, Dippers in autumn and may roostin small groups in traditional locations, such as beneath bridges. Dippers are said to be monogamous wheremating pairs only last for the breeding season. Despite this, there has been apossibility where these pairs last for years for territory purposes. Courtshipstarts in January or February of the year, and there may even be constructionand refurbishment of nests.
Even migratory Dippers in the far north of Europeare back on site by March whenthe main breeding period starts. Nesting sites for these birds are usuallypreferred in natural crevices in stream-side caves or waterfalls however therehave been occasions where these birds have used man-made structures likebridges for breeding. Very rarely do these birds reuse their nests in whichthey line them for the second time. Nest building is done by both sexes over a28-day period with the female completing the lining of the nest. Typical Dippernests are dome in shape made out of leaves, grass stems and moss as theinfrastructure.
The entrance of the nest is wide and points down towards thewater. Female Dippers lay four to five eggs daily (known as a clutch). Theseclutches are normally laid between March and May but if a good quality nest isbuilt in an advantageous environment, sightings of clutches can be spotted asearly as February. Pairs that are in acidic areas lay smaller clutches a littlelater and only a few chicks survive therefore making the brood smaller thannormal. These pairs very rarely attempt to make a second brood.
These eggs areincubated for 16 days by the female starting with the last egg so that the eggshatch simultaneously to one another. The young are brooded for 12 to 13 dayswhere they are fed by both parents. The young fledge from the nest from 20 to24 days after hatching where they are fed for another week. The young thenbecome independent 11 to 18 days after leaving the nest. The maximum lifespanof this species is eight years.