Somerset Wildlife Trust

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Scientific name: Cinclus cinclus

The Dipper (White-throated Dipper) is an aquatic passerine bird. It is a rotund, short-tailed bird, 18 cm in length, dark above and white-breasted, closely associated with swiftly running rivers and streams or the lakes into which these fall. The Dipper often perches bobbing spasmodically, with its short tail uplifted on the rocks round which the water swirls and tumbles. It acquired its name from these sudden dips, not from its diving habit, though it dives as well as walks into the water.

It flies rapidly and straight, its short wings whirring swiftly and without pauses or glides, calling a shrill zil, zil, zil. It will then either drop on the water and dive or plunge in with a small splash.

From a perch it will walk into the water and deliberately submerge. Undoubtedly when entering the water it grips with its strong feet, but the method of progression beneath the surface is by swimming, using the wings effectively for flying under water. It holds itself down by muscular exertion, with its head well down and its body oblique, its course beneath the surface often revealed by a line of rising bubbles.

The winter habits of the Dipper vary considerably and apparently individually. When the swift hill streams are frozen it is forced to descend to the lowlands and even visit the coasts, but some will remain if there is any open water.

Information and photograph courtesy of