Dipper (Cinclus cinclus)
Status: A widespread resident along rocky streams and rivers.
Conservation Concern: Green-listed in Ireland. The European population has been evaluated as Secure.
Identification: Slightly smaller than a Blackbird, in all plumages appears very compact and dumpy. Habitually bobs up and down when perched. Flies low over the water. Adults are reddish-brown with a large "bib" of white on the throat and breast. Also has a broad rusty brown patch where the white bib ends on the breast. Juvenile Dippers have the brown plumage tones replaced with grey and the the white bib reduced to a small area on the throat. The underparts are barred grey, while at close range, a small white eyering can be seen.
Similar Species: Blackbird.
Call: A short, sharp "zrt", usually given by birds in flight. The song is a slow, melodic series of squeaky notes resembling the songs of both Sedge and Reed Warbler. Although relatively quiet, the song can be easily heard over the noise of the stream/river.
Diet: Feeds on aquatic invertebrates, such as the larvae of caddis and mayflies. These are caught by diving from the surface and searching the bottom of a stream or river by walking on it. Dives from a streamside rock or after swimming in the river.
Breeding: Breeds along fast-flowing streams and rivers, with plenty of exposed rocks. In Ireland, the majority of breeding pairs are found in uplands. The nest is sited in a hole in the river bank, behind a waterfall or under a bridge. Will use nest boxes placed in suitable locations. Very sensitive to changes in water quality.
Wintering: Largely sedentary, movements largely dependant on weather conditions. Juveniles disperse soon after fledging.
Where to See: Widespread throughout Ireland. Reliable sites for Dippers in Ireland include Glendalough in County Wicklow, as well as the River Dodder in Dublin.