Question: What songbird …
- Lives along streams in western North America?
- Looks like a plump, dark gray robin with a short tail?
- Bobs his tail like a Louisiana waterthrush?
- Does “push-ups” like an angry wren?
- Swims and dives as if he was a duck?
- Has white nictitating membranes (third eyelids) for seeing underwater?
- Eats only underwater prey?
Answer: A bird who has two names — the American dipper (Cinclus mexicanus) or water ouzel.
“Dipper” describes his behavior. While looking for prey from the water’s edge, he dips his body up and down as if doing push-ups on his legs. This action gives him two perspectives while looking through the water’s refraction: high view and low view.
“Ouzel” is an Old English word that now means “like a blackbird,” except that the water ouzel is not like any blackbird.
In fact this water-loving species is unlike any songbird in North America.
That’s why I came out west to see him at Glacier National Park.
p.s. Life Bird! I even saw one feeding his young, thanks to Denny Olsen, our Road Scholar birding guide.
(video from JVCdude on YouTube)