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Northern Prairie Wildlife Research Center

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Forest and Rangeland Birds of the United States

Natural History and Habitat Use

American Dipper -- Cinclus mexicanus
(formerly Dipper)

RANGE: Resident from western and northeastern Alaska and north-central Yukon to southwestern Alberta, north-central Montana, and southwestern South Dakota south to southern California, north-central and southeastern Arizona, southern New Mexico, Mexico, and Central Mexico.

STATUS: Fairly common.

HABITAT: Found along rapidly flowing mountain streams in the West, with numerous falls and cascades, and beds filled with large rocks and boulders. Primarily in the vicinity of coniferous forests from 2,000 feet to timberline; less frequently found in the vicinity of mountain ponds and lakes.

SPECIAL HABITAT REQUIREMENTS: Clear, permanent streams or rivers.

NEST: Usually locates nest over water, either under overhanging rock ledges or under bridges, from just above water level to 15 feet high. Places nest on a rock in midstream, behind a waterfall, or more commonly, in a niche in a rock wall, or sometimes among the roots of a fallen tree.

FOOD: Eats mainly insect larvae and adults, snails, and fish fry. Searches for food while completely submerged under fast-flowing water. Catches some insects in the air by hawking.

REFERENCES: Bakus 1959, Hann 1950, Johnsgard 1979, Thut 1970.

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