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American Dipper, Tania Simpson
Photo © Tania Simpson

Photo: Tania Simpson
Breeding evidence - American Dipper
Breeding evidence
Probability of observation - American Dipper
Probability of observation
Elevation plot - American Dipper
Elevation plot

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American Dipper
Cinclus mexicanus
Landscape associations:

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Elevation range:
0 - 2272 m
Conserv. status:
Not at risk
Global importance
of B.C. population:
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
144 36 220 20
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Brit. Col.1970 - 2012 -1.7 (-5.76 - 1.98)Low
Canada1973 - 2012 -1.41 (-5.72 - 2.4)Low

Mean abundance by region

Bird Conservation Regions [plot]
NW Interior ForestBoreal Taiga PlainsGreat BasinNorthern RockiesN. Pacific Rainforest
   0.060.04 0.05
Ecoprovinces [plot]
N. Boreal Mountains Taiga Plains Boreal Plains Georgia Depression Sub-Boreal Interior
S. Interior Mountains Central Interior Southern Interior S. Alaska Mountains Coast & Mountains
0.04  0.06  0.09

Mean abundance by habitat [plot]

Boreal Altai Fescue AlpineBoreal White and Black SpruceBunchgrassCoastal Douglas-fir
Coastal Mountain-heather AlpineCoastal Western HemlockEngelmann Spruce -- Subalpine FirInterior Cedar -- Hemlock
Interior Douglas-firInterior Mountain-heather AlpineMontane SpruceMountain Hemlock
Ponderosa PineSpruce -- Willow -- BirchSub-Boreal Pine -- SpruceSub-Boreal Spruce

Characteristics and Range It is a constant delight to watch this chunky, grey bird disappear below the water of a fast-flowing river only to emerge shortly and bob up and down on a rock at the water's edge. The American Dipper is resident on fast-flowing mountain streams and cold coastal streams from Alaska and Yukon south through the mountains of western North America and Mexico south to Central America (Willson and Kingery 2011). It winters throughout its breeding range with some short-distance altitudinal migration in colder regions.

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat The American Dipper is a relatively widespread resident across most of southern British Columbia, particularly in the southwest and southeast, and a sparsely distributed resident elsewhere. This pattern matches Campbell et al. (1997). Nesting is generally below 1,000 m on the coast and usually above 1,000 m in the interior.

It is generally uncommon, even in the areas of highest Probability of Observation in the Georgia Depression, Coast and Mountains, and Southern Interior Mountains ecoprovinces. Campbell et al. (1997) considered it most numerous in the Southern Interior Mountains Ecoprovince. The American Dipper is difficult to survey using randomised point counts due to its narrow, linear habitat preferences, and too few Atlas data were collected to calculate abundance.

The American Dipper prefers shallow margins of rapids and riffles in fast-moving, clear, unpolluted streams and around the rocky edges of lakes year-round. This habitat specificity is reflected in the highest PObs values being in the regions of the province that support the highest density of fast-flowing, clear-water, unpolluted streams.

Conservation and Recommendations There are no known conservation concerns for this species, although results from the Breeding Bird Survey and Christmas Bird Counts suggest a moderate decrease in the Canadian population since the early 1970s, including in British Columbia (Environment Canada 2011, 2014). American Dippers are dependent upon the maintenance of unpolluted water quality and the protection of riparian habitat; their sensitivity to these two features makes them an indicator of stream health (Willson and Kingery 2011).

Art Martell

Recommended citation: Martell, A. 2015. American Dipper in Davidson, P.J.A., R.J. Cannings, A.R. Couturier, D. Lepage, and C.M. Di Corrado (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of British Columbia, 2008-2012. Bird Studies Canada. Delta, B.C. [28 May 2024]

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