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Why Dippers Dip

Not just for the fun of it!

Why does the American Dipper dip? One possibility is that the dipper's repetitive bobbing, against a background of turbulent water, helps conceal the bird's image from predators. A second theory asserts that dipping helps the bird spot prey beneath the surface of the water. But this theory about why dippers dip holds the most promise: Dipping may be a mode of visual communication between these birds in their noisy environment.

The soundscape featured in today’s show was recorded by Gordon Hempton and provided courtesy of QuietPlanet.com.  We’d like to thank the Bobolink Foundation for making the show possible.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 
BirdNote®
Why Dippers Dip
Written by Bob Sundstrom
This is BirdNote!
[Song of the American Dipper]
An American Dipper calls across a rushing mountain stream. Its rotund, stone-gray body bobs rhythmically up and down, its feet firmly planted. The bird’s white feathered eyelids flash like a semaphore. 
[Repeat American Dipper song]
So why do dippers dip?  Let’s consider three theories: One suggests the dipper’s repetitive bobbing against a background of turbulent water helps conceal the bird’s image from predators. A second asserts that dipping helps it sight prey beneath the surface of the water. A third theory holds the most promise. Dipping – as well as the rhythmic flicking of those flashy white eyelids – may be a mode of visual communication among American Dippers in their very noisy environment. That dippers make exaggerated dipping movements during courtship and also to threaten aggressors lends support to this theory.
[Sound of rushing water on a mountain stream]
So if one day, as you muse alongside a mountain stream and an American Dipper bobs and winks in your direction, don’t take it personally. It’s probably beckoning to another dipper upstream.
The soundscape featured in today’s show was recorded by Gordon Hempton and provided courtesy of QuietPlanet.com.  We’d like to thank the Bobolink Foundation for making the show possible.
###
Song of the American Dipper and Riparian Zone Nature SFXs #119 and # 17 recorded by Gordon Hempton of QuietPlanet.com
Some tream ambient recorded by C. Peterson
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2013 Tune In to Nature.org   September 2013   Narrator: Michael Stein
ID#091205AMDIKPLU   AMDI-02b

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