South Dakota
Birds and Birding
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American Dipper

Cinclus mexicanus

Length: 7.5 inches Wingspan: 9 inches Seasonality: All Seasons
ID Keys: Dark gray chunky body, distinctive in habitat

 American Dipper - Cinclus mexicanusAmerican Dippers are a very unique bird of the cold, fast streams in the Black Hills of South Dakota.  American Dippers feed on insects found on stream bottoms, swimming underwater to depths of up to 20 feet and even walking on the stream bed.   They often nest on the underside of bridges over mountain streams.

Habitat: Fast, clear, cold mountain streams.  

Diet: Aquatic insects, snails, small fish, worms

Behavior: Forages by catching food underwater, by either submerging its head and probing crevices or flipping over rocks, or walking underwater on the stream bottom.  They will also occasionally pluck food items from the water's surface, or feed on insects along stream banks. Photos of many of these behaviors can be seen at the bottom of the page.

Nesting: May through July

Breeding Map: Breeding bird survey map

Song: Shrill zzzeet calls; long rich song. 

Migration: Permanent resident.

Conservation Status: Local in the Black Hills only in South Dakota.  Often referred to as an "indicator" species, due to its need for fairly pristine conditions.  The presence of American Dippers generally infers very good water quality.  They have declined through many parts of their range due to declines in water quality.

South Dakota "Hotspot": The best bet to find an American Dipper in the state is Spearfish Creek in Spearfish Canyon. Try below Roughlock Falls, as there is typically a nesting pair just below the falls.

Further Information: 1) Patuxent Bird Identification InfoCenter, American Dipper

2) Cornell University's "All About Birds - American Dipper"

3) eNature.com: American Dipper

Photo Information: July 8th, 2008 - Below Roughlock Falls in the Black Hills - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos: Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution American Dipper photos

 

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
American Dipper - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Uncommon permanent resident in the Black Hills