Monday, September 14, 2009

How to find a Dipper nest

American DipperAn American Dipper stands on a rock amid-stream, near Timber, Washington Co., Oregon on 17 May 2009 by Greg Gillson.

 

An aquatic songbird! The American Dipper is truly a unique wonder of the American West. Whether floating on the surface like a little gray duck, "flying" under the water like an auklet, or walking along the bottom as easily as if it was a sandpiper on the shore, this odd bird is truly different from all other birds.

It chooses as its home the wildest rapids of a mountain stream. It builds its soccer-sized nest of moss and mud in crevices or logs over waterfalls. It also uses man-made substrates, such as the beams of bridges over rushing water.

American DipperGushing Springs, Metolius River, Jefferson Co., Oregon on 7 June 2009 by Greg Gillson. An American Dipper has a nest under the fallen log. (Click photo for larger view.)

 

The photo above shows Gushing Springs on the Metolius River, about 1/2 mile below Cache Creek Campground, near Camp Sherman, Oregon during this spring's Woodpecker Wonderland Bird Festival on the east slope of the Cascades.

The photo below is a close-up view of the nest on the log. You can see a Dipper poking its head out of the nest!

American DipperAmerican Dipper poking its head out of its nest under a fallen log over a roaring stream on the Metolius River, Jefferson Co., Oregon on 7 June 2009 by Greg Gillson. (Click photo for larger view.)

 

As you might imagine, these streams really roar during the winter when swollen with rain water and snow melt. Thus, last year's nest site may be washed away when the birds are ready to nest again in March and April. It is therefore quite understandable that these birds may choose to nest on beam under a bridge, giving a pair of birds a reliable nest site year after year.

A typical Dipper stream and nesting bridge is shown in the photo below in the northern Oregon Coast Range.

American DipperAmerican Dipper nests in the beams under this bridge near Timber, Washington Co., Oregon on 18 May 2007 by Greg Gillson. (Click photo for larger view.)

 

American Dippers build their nest on the I-bar bridge support as seen in the photo below. These type of wooden bridge structures seem to be quite popular with the dippers.

American DipperAmerican Dipper nest under a bridge near Timber, Washington Co., Oregon on 18 May 2007 by Greg Gillson. (Click photo for larger view.)

 

American Dippers can start nesting as early as February at lower elevations. They may raise a second brood that generally fledges in June.

The photos above show typical Dipper breeding streams as well as nests on natural and man-made structures. With this information you should be able to locate the nests of American Dippers. That is important, as the nest is the center of a Dipper's territory. From the nest, the Dipper's territory extends about 400-500 yards both upstream and downstream. That means that even on the best of streams it is likely there are less than two pairs of American Dippers per stream mile.

Figuring out where the nest might be located can put you near the center of the pair's year-round territory, making it more likely you will spot these unique birds when you visit.

2 comments:

  1. Great photography and a fascinating topic. Dippers are always interesting to see and are pretty amazing. I usually see them on rocks in the middle of class 3 and 4 rapids in the Payette River near Banks, Idaho. I never knew how and where they nested, so now I'll be looking for them more closely.

    ReplyDelete
  2. The Dipper is one of my favorite birds. I have never seen a nest myself. Thanks for the useful info and the cool photos. I look forward to hunting for dipper nests in spring!

    ReplyDelete