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Species Spotlight: The American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus)

John Muir once called the American dipper “the mountain streams’ own darling.” These fascinating songbirds are known for their year-round singing and remarkable resilience to cold temperatures. With their dense feathers, they can dive into near-freezing water to feed on aquatic insects and larvae, boasting feathers even on their eyelids! Watch for these beloved birds, often spotted along unfrozen local streams and rivers. They can usually be seen bobbing up and down on a rock in mid-stream or flying low over the water.

Fun facts about the American dipper, also known as the Water ouzel:


  • • Primarily feeds on insect larvae and eggs, including mayflies, mosquitoes, and midges.
  • • Capable of submerging their heads into water up to 60 times per minute to locate prey.


  • • Invariably nests near streams.
  • • Constructs domed, ball-like nests, preferably in cliffs, often dipping nest materials in water before construction.
  • • While not known to migrate, they will relocate in search of unfrozen rivers during winter.

Special Adaptations:

  • • Share many adaptations with waterfowl, enabling pursuit of insects underwater.
  • • Produce oil to prevent feathers from becoming too damp.
  • • Possess extra oxygen-carrying capacity in their blood.
  • • Utilize a nictitating membrane (semi-transparent eyelid) to protect their eyes underwater.
  • • Mold wing and tail feathers in late summer, similar to ducks.
  • • Have nostril scales to maintain water tightness.


  • • Their song is described as a “zeet,” featuring repeated or modulated notes.
  • • Known for a clear, ringing sound.