As I sit here writing this article, I am serenaded by a dipper just outside the office window. They are easy to see at any time of year here at the Falls of Clyde but the males are singing regularly at the moment because their breeding season is about to begin! The males sing to establish their territory and attract a mate. Dippers are monogamous, and the pair-bond will usually only last for the duration of the breeding season. It is however possible for pairs to remain together year on year, possibly because of an attachment to a certain territory or maybe due to a low dipper population in the area.
Nest areas are used each year so if you know of a place where dippers have nested previously, there is a good chance you will another pair nesting in the same area in the following years. However they generally don’t re-use a nest from the previous year. This is quite common in birds as it helps prevents the build-up of fleas and mites in the nesting material. Nests are usually located in a natural crevice like a stream-side cave or waterfall although they will readily take to man-made alternatives. The nest will be domed and made of moss, grass stems and leaves, then lined with stems, rootlets and hair. Both the male and female take part in building the nest and it usually takes about one month to complete.
Breeding can begin as early as February but because of our Scottish climate, I would expect ours to begin from March onwards. If they are in a good location with plentiful food and a good climate, they can raise two broods per year. A clutch of 4-5 white eggs are laid at daily intervals and they will hatch 16 days later. They will then fledge approximately three weeks later and will be fully independent in just over one month from when they first hatched!
Laura Preston, Falls of Clyde Ranger
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