Cinclus cinclus

Physical characteristics: Eurasian dippers, also known as English dippers or white-throated dippers, are small round-bodied birds with short tails. They are only 6.7 to 7.9 inches (17 to 20 centimeters) long. Males weigh between 1.9 and 2.7 ounces (53 to 76 grams), and females weigh 1.6 to 2.5 ounces (46 to 72 grams). Most of them have dark brown feathers on their heads, backs, and bellies, with white chests and throats. Some birds have blackish feathers on their backs with chestnut brown on their undersides and only white on their breasts and chins. The black-bellied dipper has no brown on its belly, while a subspecies in Asia has a white underside.

Geographic range: Eurasian dippers can be found in Great Britain, Norway, Spain, Italy, Greece, and France, as well as western Europe, Turkey, North Africa, and Asia from the Himalayas to China. In winter, birds in Scandinavia will move south into Poland and Russia.

Habitat: Like other dippers, Eurasian dippers nest near swift-moving mountain streams. Sometimes, this species can be found near the rocky shores of lakes.

Diet: Eurasian dippers usually feed on the larvae of aquatic insects like caddis worms and beetles. They also like freshwater mollusks, water fleas, newly hatched fish, and roe.

Behavior and reproduction: Eurasian dippers behave as other dippers, and feed underwater. Both sexes sing and have a "zil-zil" call. Males change their call to "clink-clink" when they are seeking the attention of females during mating.

This species generally mates for life and will often have two or three broods. They will separate after the young are on their own and will return to their home nests in the spring.

Both sexes help build their oval nests above rushing streams or rivers, usually in rock faces or in the support pieces of bridges. One to seven white eggs are laid and incubated by the female for twelve to eighteen days. Both parents feed the young birds for twenty to twenty-four days.

Eurasian dippers and people: This species, like most dippers, has no special significance to humans.

Conservation status: Though the Eurasian dipper is not threatened, most populations have shown declines due to water pollution and increased acids caused by runoff from planting evergreen trees. If the water quality improves, the birds return to their former nesting sites. ■

FOR MORE INFORMATION

Books:

Brewer, David, and Barry Kent Mackay. Wrens, Dippers, and Thrashers: A Guide to the Wrens, Dippers, and Thrashers of the World. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2001.

Robbins, Michael. Birds (Fandex Family Field Guides). New York: Workman Publishing Company, 1998.

Tyler, Stephanie J. Dippers. San Diego, CA: Elsevier Science & Technology, 1994.

Weidensaul, Scott. Birds (National Audubon Society First Field Guides). New York: Scholastic Trade, 1998.

Periodicals:

Barber, Robert E. "Joy-bird." American Forests (Spring 1996): 34-35.

Osborn, Sophie A. H. "Anting by an American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus)." Wilson Bulletin (September 1998): 423-425.

Turbak, Gary. "The Bird That Files Through Water: Scientists Continue to Marvel at the American Dipper. A Species Remarkably Adapted for Life Near Raging Rivers." National Wildlife (June-July 2000).

THRUSHES AND CHATS Turdidae

Class: Aves

Order: Passeriformes

Family: Turdidae

Number of species: 331 species

CHAPTER

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

Thrushes have a varied appearance among their vast number of species, though some basic characteristics are common to all. They average in size from about 5 to 13 inches (12 to 33 centimeters) and are categorized as small to medium in size. The smaller species are known as chats.

Birds of this family are known for their upright posture and bills that tend to be thin and have no curves with a very slight hook. Their wings are rounded, except for in the species that are true migrants, which have longer and more pointed wingtips out of necessity for their long flights. The outermost wings are usually very short. Their tails are generally not very long and often short with square tips.

Some adult species show no marked differences between the male and female. Others vary significantly. For example, blackbirds include males that are jet-black and females that are pale brown. On the other hand, male and female song thrushes are identical in appearance. Thrushes in general are woodland songbirds that do not have any pronounced ornamentation in terms of crests, ruffs, or other feathered features. The variety of colors among the species is often stunning with marked but subtle tones. The color can range from muted brown on top with a paler shade on the spotted underside, to those with red heads, gray rears and cheeks, to those with a variable blue and blue-gray with a deep orange to rusty-red underneath and on the tail. Some tropical varieties might be electric blue and white, as well as others that are a mixture of deep colors of orange, phylum class subclass order monotypic order suborder family black, white, and gray with varying patterns that include spots and streaks of colors.

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