Bird of the Week


This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the American dipper.
The colorful behavior of the American dipper contrasts sharply with its drab plumage. Both male and female are stocky, dark gray birds with brown-tinged heads and are about 7 inches long. Extra feathers, low metabolism rate and extra oxygen in the blood are among their adaptations for life in cold water.
A resident of fast-moving, boulder-strewn streams of the west, the dipper is quite easy to spot now on the open waters of the San Juan River in town. Watch for it to fly low over the water and land on a rock, where it bobs up and down in constant motion.
In search of food, either aquatic insects, tiny fish or eggs, the dipper can dive into the cold water and walk along the bottom, probing under stones with its feet. It will also wade in the shallows with only its head submerged, or swim on top of the water.
Also called the water ouzel, the American dipper is Colorado’s only aquatic songbird. Both sexes sing year-round and it is a real treat to hear one on a cold winter day. Susceptible to pollution and water disturbances, the American dipper is an indicator of good water quality.