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Dipper Ecology

Project Overview

The White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) is a medium-sized songbird which lives along shallow, fast flowing, clean rivers of Europe, North Africa and Central Asia. The Irish Dipper (C. cinclus hibernicus) is a unique subspecies found only in Ireland which can be distinguished from other subspecies by a rusty brown band where the bib ends on the breast.

The ecology of Dippers is intimately linked to river ecosystems, as they rely on them for food and breeding. As a consequence of their close association to riparian ecosystems, Dippers are considered a good bioindicator species (species whose function, populations, or status are useful for monitoring environmental health). Changes in environmental variables thus have the potential to affect breeding rates of Dipper pairs and ultimately to cause changes to Dipper population dynamics.

Long-term monitoring of Dipper populations has been carried out in the southwest of Ireland since the 1980’s by Pat Smiddy, Barry O’Mahony and Professor John O’Halloran (University College Cork) and in the Slieve Blooms since the early 2000’s by Dr. Alex Copland (BirdWatch Ireland). Currently, long-term monitoring data and novel monitoring techniques are being used by Darío Fernández-Bellon to research the impacts of multiple drivers of global change (e.g. climate change, pollution, changes in land use) on Irish Dipper populations.

For further information, contact Darío Fernández-Bellon or see the project page at

UCC Ornithology Research Group

School of Biological, Earth and Environmental Sciences, UCC North Mall Campus, North Mall, Cork City,