Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Denizens of the White Water

The fast-flowing mountain streams of the Iberian Peninsula, from the Pyrenees down to the Betics, are home to specialists at living amidst torrents and cataracts. No species is more at home here than the Dipper.

This amazing bird is widespread across the Palaearctic Region to the Himalayas. To the east it is replaced by the Brown Dipper. The American Dipper is the North American counterpart, reaching south to Central America. Two other species - White-capped and Rufous-throated - take over in South America. And that is it. There are only five species of Dipper in the world!

Dippers are highly specialised and adapted for taking insect larvae and other invertebrates under water. They don't dive for them but instead walk under water to take their prey, a unique behaviour among birds. The images below show this amazing behaviour...

Often associated with similar habitats is the beautiful Grey Wagtail, with its safrron yellow rump and undersides. It is less restricted to fast flowing streams but is usually found wherever there are Dippers.

Also present alongside is the White Wagtail but this species is the least specialised of the three and is often at home in other aquatic habitats too (below)

Perhaps more appropriately grey than the Grey Wagtail the absence of yellow separates this species easily from its cousin (below)

1 comment:

  1. Dipper is a really interesting bird, it is a joy to watch them. We have plenty of dippers in nearby waterfall:)