Habitat and Geography

The American Dipper, typically resides in areas located near turbulent, rapid-flowing streams. A majority of the American Dipper population can be found in the Western American states and Western providences of Canada, but also in some southern regions in Central America such as Panama and Costa Rica (Tyler and Ormerod 1994). Although this particular bird is usually found in mountainous regions at higher elevations, it isLocation likely that they can also be found in areas closer to sea level so long as there are streams they find suitable enough comprised mostly of clear, rocky river beds and cool water (BirdWeb 1999).

Occasionally, the American Dipper will inhabit quieter, slower moving areas of streams such as lake edges or ponds, however, the American Dipper mainly inhabits areas of river ecosystems with fast-moving streams, cascades, or waterfalls where they are able to locate a variety of their preferred invertebrate aquatic prey usually residing under the rocks of the riverbed (Strom et al. 2009; BirdWeb 1999).  The rocky riverbeds of the American Dipper habitat provide a sufficient source of aquatic invertebrates and, therefore, American Dippers are heavily dependent on the productivity these aquatic environments have to offer (Strom et al. 2009). Some organisms that also reside near these aquatic environments include water fleas and damselflies. Unfortunately, sometimes the preferred, rapid-moving currents lead to excess discharge into the streams making the streams and rivers inhospitable to a considerable amount of the American Dipper food sources. For this reason, American Dippers will likely migrate to other areas close by during times of “raging torrents” specifically during times of great snow melt causing currents to be the fastest (Garwood et al. 2009). The research conducted by Garwood, Pope and Larson in 2009 found that the American Dipper is rarely found away from bodies of water thus resulting in the name “the aquatic songbird.”

In addition, the nesting locations this particular dipper species builds and resides in tends to vary from cliffs, banks, boulders, and bridges located near streams (Garwood et al. 2009). Although some dippers migrate, not all do. Instead, the sedentary/residential individuals tend to stay close to their original location by just moving to nearby rivers in the winter and areas with high concentrations of hatching insAmerican Dipper perched near turbulant waterects during the spring and summer seasons (Morrissey et al. 2004). More about the American Dipper’s unique partial migratory life-style will be further described in the life history/ reproduction sections. Furthermore, the American Dipper is a particular species of bird that is identified as a passerine belonging to the order Passeriformes. Species of this order are classified as having a specific toe arrangement that helps aid with perching, a characteristic of the American Dipper used for perching on these boulders, cliffs, and banks of their preferred habitats. The nests the American Dippers build are quite large in diameter sometimes reaching up to 12 inches in diameter (BirdWeb 1999). The close location of the nests to the aquatic habitat helps keep the moss building components of the nest alive as a result of the spray from the stream (BirdWeb 1999).

Due to the fact that American Dippers are heavily dependent on river ecosystems, their primary food source includes aquatic invertebrates, which will further be explained in the Form and Function section.

American Dipper posingAmerican Dipper eating small fish


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