Dippers, one of Exmoor's iconic river birds are amongst my favourite birds to watch and photograph.
The Dipper (so called) because of its behaviour of dipping in and out of the water, as well as its characteristic ‘bobbing’ action live alongside fast-flowing shallow streams and rivers and often nests under bridges and in walls. Its white throat and breast contrast with its dark plumage.
The head of the adult is brown, the back slate-grey mottled with black, looking black from a distance, and the wings and tail are brown.
Although they don’t have webbed feet, to help reduce their buoyancy in water, the bones are solid instead of hollow. They also have dense plumage with a large preen gland for waterproofing their feathers. Their relatively long legs and sharp claws enable them to hold on to rocks in swift water. Their eyes have focus muscles that can change the curvature of the lens to enhance underwater vision and they have nasal flaps to prevent water entering their nostrils.
‘The male has a sweet wren-like song. During courtship the male sings whilst he runs and postures, exhibiting his snowy breast, and when displaying he will take long and high flights, like those of the Kingfisher, accompanied by sharp metallic calls clink, clink.’
I love watching them dive into the river looking for caddis fly larvae, freshwater shrimps and I have also seen them catch small sprats.
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