American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus)

American Dipper

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Cinclidae | [latin] Cinclus mexicanus | [UK] American Dipper | [FR] Cincle americain | [DE] Grau-Wasseramsel | [ES] Mirlo-acuatico Norteamericano | [NL] Noordamerikaanse Waterspreeuw


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Cinclus mexicanus NA, MA w Canada to Panama
Cinclus mexicanus anthonyi
Cinclus mexicanus ardesiacus
Cinclus mexicanus dickermani
Cinclus mexicanus mexicanus
Cinclus mexicanus unicolor

Physical charateristics

A chunky, slate-colored bird of rushing mountain streams. Shaped like a wren (size of a large thrush); tail stubby. Legs pale, eyelids white.
Note bobbing motions, slaty color, flashing eyelid. Dives, submerges.

Listen to the sound of American Dipper

[audio: Dipper.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 22 cm wingspan max.: 24 cm
size min.: 17 cm size max.: 19 cm
incubation min.: 13 days incubation max.: 17 days
fledging min.: 20 days fledging max.: 23 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 4  
      eggs max.: 5  


North America, Middle America : West Canada to Panama


Fast-flowing streams in mountains. Breeds along swift, ro
cky streams in mountainous areas, seeming to favor clear, cold water, often in narrow canyons. In winter, may move to streams at lower elevations, sometimes accepting narrow creeks or slower-moving rivers.


In courtship, male may strut and sing in front of female, with his wings drooping and bill pointed up.
Nest: Natural sites include slight ledge on mossy rock wall just above stream, among roots on dirt bank, or behind waterfall; oft
en placed where nest remains continuously wet from spray. Many nests today are built under bridges that cross mountain streams. Nest (probably built by female) is a domed structure about a foot in diameter, with a large entrance low on one side; made of m
osses, some of them still green and growing, often with some twigs, rootlets, or grass woven in.
Eggs: 4-5, sometimes 3-6. White. Incubation is by female, 13-17 days.
Young: Both parents feed nestlings (but female may do more). Young leave the nest at about 18-25 days and are able to swim and dive almost immediately.

Feeding habits

Mostly aquatic insects.
Feeds on many kinds of aquatic insects, including larvae of caddisflies, mayflies, and mosquitoes, plus adults of these insects and others; also some worms and snails. Also eats fish eggs and small fish (less than 3″ long).
Behavior: Most food caught underwater. May
walk with only its head submerged, or may dive, “flying” underwater and walking on the bottom, probing under stones in streambed. Also will swim on surface to pick up floating insects. Occasionally takes insects from streamside rocks, rarely catches inse
cts in midair.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be stable, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is very large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
American Dipper status Least Concern


Resident, Alaska, western Canada to western Panama. Migration:
Permanent resident in many areas, some staying through winter even in far north, wherever fast-flowing streams remain unfrozen. Some move to lower elevations and slightly southward in winter.

Distribution map

American Dipper distribution range map

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