The Monday Bird of the Week No.8 – Dipper

It’s been a while, but MBOW is back!

My trip to Edinburgh decided the bird of the week for me, and fortunately I have a few shots of Dippers from the River Kent in Kendal to illustrate.

Dipper, River Kent, Kendal, May 2011

Dipper, River Kent, Kendal, May 2011

The Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) has long been one of my favourite birds. I first remember seeing them in Northumbria when I was a boy, probably on the Tweed, or at The Hirsel in Coldstream. I was taken by their fat little bodies, bobbing up and down (earning their name), and their lovely plumage that makes them look rather like a fat little waiter at an especially posh restaurant.

"Who are you calling fat?"

“Who are you calling fat?”

But that slightly comic, dumpy appearance belies the tough nature of this little bird. The one we saw in Edinburgh last week was happily stood on a branch, dipping its head into fast-flowing water that would knock a person over. But that’s how they hunt.

Taking a dip

Taking a dip

They can swim a little, but essentially they walk head-first into fast-flowing water, foraging for insect larvae and other invertebrates. They also nest near these bodies of water, and benefit from our bridge-building as a small stone bridge can provide great breeding habitat for a Dipper.

A Dipper on the hunt

A Dipper on the hunt

They have a surprisingly sweet little song, and have evolved to pitch this exactly right to allow other dippers to hear it over the rush of water. All in all, if you have a Dipper on your patch, they are well worth watching. They can be quite obliging too, so as long as you are respectful they can watched at pretty close distance.

A bird worth spotting!




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2 Responses to The Monday Bird of the Week No.8 – Dipper

  1. James Corner says:

    They’ve always been one of my favourite birds too. I once spent a happy hour watching a pair feed their young behind Janet’s Foss (a small waterfall close to Gordale Scar in the Yorkshire Dales). By positioning myself just right, I could see through a gap in the flow of water and had a partial view of the nest through my binoculars. I would have never spotted it of course if I hadn’t noticed the adult bird flying through the waterfall.

I welcome thoughts, comments and questions, so please feel free to share anything at all. Thanks, David

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