dipper defined in 1930 yeardipper - Dipper;
dipper - Upper plumage brownish black tinged with grey; throat and breast pure white; belly chestnut- brown; bill black; feet horn-colour. Female: colours dingy. Length, six inches and a half.
The dipper, or water-ouzel, differs considerably in appearance, and still more in habits, from all other British birds; as is the case with such species as the wryneck, cuckoo, kingfisher, bearded tit, tree-creeper, starling, and nuthatch, there is no other like him. In figure he is wren-like, stout and compact in body, with short, rounded wings and short, square tail, which, as with the wren, is often carried upright and jerked. He is a little less than the song- thrush in size, and is conspicuously coloured, the greater part of the plumage being black, or blackish brown; and, in strong contrast, the throat and upper part of the breast shining white - a big black wren with a silvery white bib.
Some species always live and move within such narrow limits, or, in other words, are so dependent on certain conditions, that we invariably think of them in association with their surroundings: - the snipe with the boggy soil; the rock-pipit with the rock-bound seashore; the tree-creeper with the tree he climbs upon; the lark with the cultivated fields; and the swift with the void blue sky, through which he is perpetually rushing. In like manner we invariable think of the dipper in connection with the swift, brawling mountain- torrent he inhabits. He is never, or very seldom, found removed from it, and is probably more restricted to certain conditions, and consequently more bound to his home, than any one of the species just named. The stream he attaches himself to must have quiet and comparatively deep pools, and the water must be clear to enable him to detect the larva of water-beetles, dragon-flies, and other aquatic insects he preys on, all of which have a protective colouring. He does not range up and down a stream, like the kingfisher, to visit the various feeding-places; he limits himself to a portion of it, in many cases not more than a hundred yards in length, and explores the bottoms of the same pools from day to day, until they must be as familiar to him - all their inequalities, their stony ridges and half-buried boulders, and sandy or pebbled places, and all the holes and secret corners where sediment collects - as the rooms we live in are to us, and about which we are able to move freely in the dimmest light. In ascending a mountain stream such as these birds love, abounding in deep, quiet pools, with noisy cascades and shallow rapids, its bottom strewn with great fallen boulders partly submerged, the rocky banks overgrown with sheltering bushes and vines, when you disturb a dipper he flies up stream a short distance, perhaps twenty yards, and alights on a boulder, or in the shadow of an overhanging rock, and there waits, silent and motionless, until, disturbed again, he takes a second short flight up stream, and so on to the limit of his range, whereupon, rising up and doubling back, he flies to the spot he started from. And as often as you disturb him he will act in the same way, going just so far, and no farther. If you leave him behind and go on, you will find another pair of dippers, whose portion of the stream begins just where that of the first pair ends. They, too, will act in the same way, and fly on until the end of their range is reached, and will not venture beyond where a third pair are in possession. Where they are not disturbed a mountain stream may be found parcelled out in this way among a dozen or twenty couples. Probably the dipper, like the robin, jealously resents the intrusion of another bird of his kind into his chosen ground. Concerning this habit of the dipper, and its strange way of feeding under the water, something still remains to be known. It is, indeed, strange that this little perching song-bird should have the habit of diving for its food like a grebe or a guillemot, and other species that have structures specially adapted to such a way of life. For there is absolutely nothing in the dipper's structure to lead anyone unacquainted with its habits to believe that it ever approaches the water, unless to drink and bathe, and perhaps to pick up an insect floating on the surface. That it is able to sink into and move freely about beneath the water close to the bottom of a stream, in spite of gravity, seems very astonishing, and would be incredible if the fact were not so familiar. Some ornithologists believe that it is related to the wren, others to the thrush; - that is a question capable of solution; but how by a short-cut it became a diver must remain a mystery.
Formerly it was believed that the dipper was able to walk freely about on the bottom of the stream, but that was an error. It is difficult to watch the bird moving about under water; but a few good observers have succeeded in doing so, and from their accounts it would appear that the dipper propels itself by powerful wing-beats, moving by a series of rushes or jerks, keeping close to the bottom of the stream. It appears to swallow its food under water, but comes up at intervals to breathe, then sinks again beneath the surface.
On land the dipper is somewhat inactive, and will stand on a boulder or under an overhanging rock without moving for a long time. One would imagine that their eyes, fitted so well to see in the dim light beneath the surface, must be very sensitive to the glare above.
The dipper's song is short but brilliant, and very much like that of the wren in character; it is heard most frequently in the love season, and occasionally in autumn and in winter, when the sun shines, even during very cold weather.
The nest is made among the rocks, usually in a crevice, and is very large for the size of the bird, being sometimes a foot across, and is globular in form, with a small opening near the top. It is composed principally of moss, loosely felted, the inside lined with dry grass, fine rootlets, and dead leaves. Four to six eggs are laid, pure white, and unspotted.
The dipper is most common in mountainous districts in Scotland, Ireland, and Wales, and is found in suitable localities in England.
The black-billed dipper (Cinclus melanogaster), the Scandinavian and North Russian form of Cinclus aquaticus, has been met with on two or three occasions as a straggler to the east coast of England.
pictures for dipper
near dipper in Knolik
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