The dipper is a short-tailed and compactbird which is built for the waterways. Their tail is often cocked, and their upperbody is a very dark brown, almost black looking in some lights. The dipper has a rusty brown head and underbelly, with a large stark white bib in contrast. A couple of subspecies can befound in the UK, often differing in the shade of their underbelly breast band.The juveniles look very different from the adults, and you would be forgivenfor thinking they are a different species. They are a pale grey-brown, mottled allover, with only a slight hint of paler colour on the bib area.
Average Length: 17-20 cm
Average Lifespan: 3 Years
Average Wingspan: 25-30cm
Dippers forage in freshwater streams and rivers, feeding on an array of small invertebrate prey.
If weather is fair, dippers may start constructing nests as early as January/February with both the male and female helping to build the nest. Nests are constructed alongside a river or stream, on an overhang, using moss, grass, leaves, and roots. Dippers breed during early spring, with many clutches laid between March-May. 1-2 broods are normally laid annually, though occasionally 3 if it is a very good year. Each clutch contains 4-5 eggs, which are incubated by the female for 2 and a half weeks, with chicks fed for a further3 weeks before fledging.
Research has shown that dippers are particularly sensitive to the pH levels in water environments, and more acidic streams can cause issues in reproduction and survival. These vast changes in acidity are often related to high levels of pollution in these stream environments. Other studies have found that dippers are also sensitive to fluctuations water levels and in temperature, as in harsh and cold winters the waterways may freeze, limiting their ability to forage.
Help your local river trust to clean your local river, to keep them in tip top shape for the wildlife
Petition your local area to put up suitable dipper nest boxes if there are a lack of nesting cavities in your area
Report any instances of river pollution to either the canal and river trust, or the environment agency
Did you know that dippers are the only songbird that uses its wings to propel itself to swim underwater? They are well equipped for underwater diving due to improved water resistance in the feather structure, differences in skeletal structure, thicker skin and thicker layers of down feathers.
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