American Dipper

Grey bird wading in water
Dippers are most commonly seen in or around fast-moving streams.

NPS Robb Hannawacker


Scientific Name

Cinclus mexicanus



  • They are a round, dark-gray songbird that is uniform in color. The body is stocky and compact, with a short tail.
  • Dippers can be identified from other songbirds by their presence near or in water. They are most commonly seen wading or bobbing their heads underwater.


  • American dippers are found throughout western North America, and are almost always found near clear, rushing water. They can be found in mountains, coastal areas, and deserts, as long as streams are present.
  • In Grand Canyon National Park, dippers are found year-round along the Colorado River and tributary streams inside the Grand Canyon.
  • American dippers do not migrate south, but in the winter they move to larger rivers that do not freeze over.


  • Dippers are the only aquatic songbird in North America. They swim, wade, dive under water, and flip submerged stones while searching for food.
  • They feed on aquatic insects and their larvae, including mayflies, mosquitoes, dragonflies, and small fish. They get their name from their habit of dipping their heads underwater while looking for prey.
  • Dippers place their nests on cliffs, dirt banks, or boulders above fast moving water, which protects the nest from predators. The female builds a ball-like nest, which is made of 2 parts: an outer shell made of moss, and an interior room made of grass and leaves. This two-part construction keeps the inside of the nest dry.
  • Dippers lay 4-5 white eggs at a time. The chicks begin to fly at 3-4 weeks old.

Last updated: March 23, 2016

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Mailing Address:

PO Box 129
Grand Canyon, AZ 86023



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