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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

BirdNote®: Dippers on the Elwha

Air Date: Week of

An American Dipper holds a salmon egg in its beak. (Photo: © Tony Mitra)

Many species in the Pacific Northwest benefitted from the removal of Elwha River dams, among them American Dippers, as Mary McCann explains in today’s BirdNote®.


CURWOOD: Fresh water is a precious commodity that we divert and try to control.
But sometimes, we reverse those constraints and let water run free – and that can bring a flood of support for wildlife. Here’s Mary McCann with today’s BirdNote

MCCANN: In 2014, on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, the dams on the Elwha River were removed. It was the largest removal of its kind in history. As the river ran free again, salmon from the Pacific were able to spawn upstream for the first time in 100 years – having a dramatic impact on American Dippers - lively little riverside birds.

[Song of American Dipper]

Biologists with the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, and Ohio State University drew small samples of blood from dippers that they then released unharmed. Analysis of blood and feathers show that birds with access to salmon have higher survival rates and the females have better body condition than those with no access to the fish. These dippers are also much more likely to stay on their home territories, rather than expend energy to forage widely. And they are 20 times more likely to attempt raising two broods in a season, the most important contributor to population growth.
So nutrients from spawned-out salmon and salmon eggs are giving the river’s ecosystem new vitality.

I’m Mary McCann.

[Song of American Dipper]

This American Dipper dives in for a meal. (Photo: © Mike Hamilton)

Written by Todd Peterson
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. American Dipper [8992] recorded by R S Little
River ambience recorded by Chris Peterson. ‘Stream, Moderate’ Track 18 Nature SFX recorded by Gordon Hempton at http://www.quietplanet.com
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black
© 2005-2018 Tune In to Nature.org May 2018 Narrator: Mary McCann


CURWOOD: For some photos – dip into our website, loe dot org.



This story on the BirdNote® website

The American Dipper research project

Learn more about the Elwha River restoration


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