AskDefine | Define dipper

Dictionary Definition



1 a ladle that has a cup with a long handle
2 a cluster of seven stars in Ursa Minor; at the end of the dipper's handle is Polaris [syn: Little Dipper]
3 a group of seven bright stars in the constellation Ursa Major [syn: Big Dipper, Plough, Charles's Wain, Wain, Wagon]
4 small North American diving duck; males have bushy head plumage [syn: bufflehead, butterball, Bucephela albeola]
5 small stocky diving bird without webbed feet; frequents fast-flowing streams and feeds along the bottom [syn: water ouzel]

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. Any of various small passerine birds of the genus Cinclus that live near fast-flowing streams and feed along the bottom.
  2. A cup-shaped vessel with a long handle, for dipping out liquids.




Derived terms

Extensive Definition

Dippers are members of the genus Cinclus in the bird family Cinclidae. They are named for their bobbing or dipping movements. They are unique among passerines for their ability to dive and swim underwater.

Distribution and habitat

Dippers are found in suitable freshwater habitats in the highlands of the Americas, Europe and Asia. In Africa they are only found in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. They inhabit the banks of fast-moving upland rivers with cold, clear waters, though, outside the breeding season, they may visit lake shores and sea coasts. They have nasal flaps to prevent water entering their nostrils. Their blood has a high haemoglobin concentration, allowing a greater capacity to store oxygen than terrestrial birds, and allowing them to remain underwater for up to at least 30 seconds.



Dippers forage for small animal prey in and along the margins of fast-flowing freshwater streams and rivers. They perch on rocks and feed at the edge of the water, but they often also grip the rocks firmly and walk down them beneath the water until partly or wholly submerged. They then search underwater for prey between and beneath stones and debris; they can also swim with their wings. The two South American species swim and dive less often than the three northern ones. Their prey consists primarily of invertebrates such as the nymphs or larvae of mayflies, blackflies, stoneflies and caddisflies, as well as small fish and fish eggs. Molluscs and crustaceans are also consumed, especially in winter when insect larvae are less available. The incubation period of 16-17 days is followed by the hatching of altricial young which are brooded by the female alone for the next 12-13 days. The nestlings are fed by both parents and the whole fledging period is about 20-24 days. Young dippers usually become independent of their parents within a couple of weeks of leaving the nest. Dippers may raise second broods if conditions allow. Dippers also communicate visually by their characteristic dipping or bobbing movements, as well as by blinking rapidly to expose their pale upper eyelids as a series of white flashes in courtship and threat displays.


Dippers are completely dependent on fast-flowing rivers with clear water, accessible food and secure nest-sites. They may be threatened by anything that affects these needs such as water pollution, acidification and turbidity caused by erosion. River regulation through the creation of dams and reservoirs, as well as channelization, can degrade and destroy dipper habitat.


Cinclus is the only genus in the family Cinclidae. The White-throated Dipper is also known in Britain as the Water Ouzel (sometimes spelt "ousel") – ouzel originally meant the unrelated but superficially similar Blackbird (Old English osle). Ouzel also survives as the name of a relative of the Blackbird, the Ring Ouzel.



  • Mullarney, Svensson, Zetterstrom and Grant, Collins Bird Guide ISBN 0-00-219728-6

External links

dipper in Danish: Vandstære
dipper in German: Wasseramseln
dipper in Esperanto: Cinkledoj
dipper in French: Cinclidae
dipper in Italian: Cinclus
dipper in Hungarian: Vízirigófélék
dipper in Dutch: Waterspreeuwen
dipper in Japanese: カワガラス科 (Sibley)
dipper in Polish: Pluszcze
dipper in Portuguese: Cinclidae
dipper in Turkish: Dere kuşu
dipper in Chinese: 河乌属
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