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The Kennedy Wild Bird Food Guide to the Dipper

This plump-looking, short-tailed wild bird is often seen at the water’s edge where it feeds on a wide range of underwater insects. The cinclus cinclus (more commonly known as the ‘dipper’ bird) has made a home out of the many fast-flowing streams and rivers of upland Britain.

It’s one of our country’s most distinctive-looking birds, and we have all you need to know about dippers here with our ultimate guide. Take a look!

What does a dipper look like?

Dippers are medium-sized, somewhat plump-looking birds with chocolate-brown coats and white streaks across their throat and chest. They’re quite similar to wrens, with their brown-white colour split (the stark contrast between the white bib and dark plumage is the reason the two birds are often mistaken for each other).

What does a dipper eat?

A dipper’s diet consists of insect larvae and freshwater shrimps, so you can rest assured that they’ll love our suet products for birds. They also eat a lot of underwater insects, using their quite unusual technique of walking into the water (more often than not walking until they’re fully submerged) to catch their food.

In fact, the cinclus cinclus was named ‘dipper’ because of the dipping motion the bird makes when looking for their next meal. The dipper’s head will bob up and down on the surface of the water as it stands on rock perches in rivers and streams.

What does a dipper sound like?

The dipper bird song is a high-pitched, sweet-sounding warble that is just about audible above the rushing streams of water. Heard in isolation, the dipper bird song is a quite beautiful sound.

To hear the song for yourself, click here

Where can I spot a dipper?

You can spot a dipper anywhere in upland areas of the United Kingdom where there are fast-flowing rivers (remember that they like to perch on stones to catch prey). You’ll know that dippers have been around by the droppings they leave on stones in and around rivers. 

In rare instances, you may also find them around the lowland rivers of South West England.

Interesting facts about the dipper

To ensure you get every bit of information you need about this marvellous wild bird, we’ve gathered together some interesting and perhaps little-known facts about the cinclus cinclus. Here they are!

  • They can walk underwater. As we mentioned earlier, they have an unorthodox way of hunting for food. They feed on small aquatic invertebrates by walking along the bed of fast-flowing rivers and streams. To do this, they stretch out their wings against the current and push themselves downward to stay submerged. Genius!
  • Dippers are the national bird of Norway! To Norwegians, they’re known as white-throated dippers to distinguish them from others.
  • Other variants of the dipper family (which include the Eurasian dipper and the rufous-throated dipper) can be found in locations as diverse as Africa, South America, China, and the Himalayas.
  • Dippers are able to stay underwater for up to 30 seconds!

Have you seen a dipper nearby?

If you’ve seen a dipper near your home, or maybe on your holidays, don’t forget to log it in our BirdSpotter map. That way, other bird enthusiasts will know where to go! In the meantime, stay tuned to our blog – it’s updated regularly and contains plenty of bird-related insights.



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