American Dippers: Singing From Montana's Icy Streams

Jan 9, 2015

American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus), near Moulton Falls, Yacolt, Washington. (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Credit Flickr user, Teddy Llovet

"Skiing next to a creek north of Missoula on a morning so cold that ice crystals dance in the air, the world seems silent, asleep. Then a brilliant melody pours forth like a breath of spring. The sound seems to come from the water itself. I ski closer to the ice-lined creek and a splash in the shallows reveals a stub-tailed, plump little bird whose dark coloring blends perfectly with the drab gray rocks. This is a dipper, or water ouzel, a year-round native of Montana's rushing, forested streams. Not only does the dipper brave the harsh winters, but this water-loving bird dares to sing on the coldest of days. In fact, February marks the start of courtship for dippers."

(Broadcast: "Fieldnotes," 1/11/15. Listen weekly on the radio, Sundays at 12:55 p.m., or via podcast.)