American Dipper adult and fledgling. (© Tom Grey)
The American Dipper is a favorite bird of the west, but exactly why dippers dip is a bit of a mystery. Michael Stein reports.
CURWOOD: We have a much more soothing kind of story now - the mystery of exactly why a familiar bird of the American west does what it does. Michael Stein has our BirdNote®.
[WATER RUSHING, SOUND OF CHIRPING]
STEIN: An American Dipper calls across a rushing mountain stream. Its rotund, stone-gray body bobs rhythmically up and down, its feet firmly planted. The bird’s white-feathered eyelids flash like a semaphore.
[CHIRPING AMERICAN DIPPER]
So why do dippers dip? Let’s consider three theories: One suggests the dipper’s repetitive bobbing against a background of turbulent water helps conceal the bird’s image from predators. A second asserts that dipping helps it sight prey beneath the surface of the water. A third theory holds the most promise. Dipping, as well as the rhythmic flicking of those flashy white eyelids, may be a mode of visual communication among American Dippers in their very noisy environment. That dippers make exaggerated dipping movements during courtship and also to threaten aggressors lends support to this theory.
[WATER RUSHING IN MOUNTAIN STREAM]
So if one day, as you muse alongside a mountain stream and an American Dipper bobs and winks in your direction, don’t take it personally. It’s probably beckoning to another dipper upstream.
I'm Michael Stein.
CURWOOD: There are photos of dipping dippers at our website, LOE.org.
Written by Bob Sundstrom
Song of the American Dipper and Riparian Zone Nature SFXs #119 and # 17 recorded by Gordon Hempton of QuietPlanet.com
Some stream ambient recorded by C. Peterson
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2013 Tune In to Nature.org September 2013 Narrator: Michael Stein]
Living on Earth wants to hear from you!
P.O. Box 990007
Boston, MA, USA 02199
Donate to Living on Earth!
Living on Earth is an independent media program and relies entirely on contributions from listeners and institutions supporting public service. Please donate now to preserve an independent environmental voice.
Sailors For The Sea: Be the change you want to sea.
Innovating to make the world a better, more sustainable place to live. Listen to the race to 9 billion
The Grantham Foundation for the Protection of the Environment: Committed to protecting and improving the health of the global environment.
Energy Foundation: Serving the public interest by helping to build a strong, clean energy economy.
Contribute to Living on Earth and receive, as our gift to you, an archival print of one of Mark Seth Lender's extraordinary hummingbird photographs. Follow the link to see Mark's current collection of photographs.