dipper, common name for the only aquatic member of the order Perciformes (perching birds) found near cold mountain streams. With their short, stubby wings and tails and their thick brownish plumage, dippers are thought to be closely related to the wrens. There are four species: the brownish gray North American dipper, Cinclus mexicanus, called also water ouzel, found from Alaska to Panama; the white-headed dipper of the Andes; the European common dipper, with a white throat and breast, found from Scandinavia to Africa; and the Asian dipper of Siberia and China. Dippers have filmy feathers, large preen glands that provide waterproofing oil, and flaps over the nostrils and a third eyelid to keep out water. They swim well underwater, using their wings for propulsion, and eat water insects and larvae, newts, and minnows. Their wrenlike domed nests are built in rock crevices. Dippers are classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Aves, order Perciformes, family Cinclidae.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.