An american dipper hops along rocks by a stream.

The American dipper, or Cinclus mexicanus, is a small, wren-like bird. Unlike most other songbirds, it molts its wing and tail feathers all at once in the late summer. It is flightless during this time.


These birds are dark gray or brown overall with a short, cocked tail and white eyelids that flash when blinked. Its bill and legs are dark. Sexes are similar, but the female dipper is slightly smaller. A juvenile is paler with white, streaked underparts and yellow legs and bill.


American dippers are found from northern Alaska, throughout the Rockies, Cascades, and Sierra Nevada, and as far south as Panama. It lives by swift flowing mountain streams, and is less frequently found along mountain ponds and lakes. Occasionally, these birds appear on rocky coasts during the winter.


Three to six white eggs are laid in a globe-shaped nest made of mosses with a side entrance. The nest is built close to water, on a rock ledge, riverbank, behind a waterfall, or under a bridge. Incubation ranges from 13 to 17 days and is carried out by the female bird.