White-throated Dipper Cinclus cinclus


Justification of Red List category
This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be decreasing, however the rate of decline is not believed to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.

Population justification
In Europe, the breeding population is estimated to number 131,000-292,000 pairs, which equates to 261,000-584,000 mature individuals (BirdLife International 2015). Europe forms c.35% of the global range, so a very preliminary estimate of the global population size is 740,000-1,700,000 mature individuals, although further validation of this estimate is needed.

Trend justification
In Europe the population size is estimated to be decreasing by less than 25% in 12.3 years (three generations) (BirdLife International 2015).

Distribution and population

This species is patchily distributed across Eurasia, occurring in the U.K., Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Liechtenstein, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Greece, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, China, Mongolia, India, Nepal and Bhutan (del Hoyo et al. 2005). The subspecies olympicus, formerly endemic to Cyprus, became extinct in 1945 (Flint and Stewart 1983).


This species occupies fast-flowing, clear-water rocky streams and rivers with riffles and exposed rocks, and with abundant invertebrate prey. It also uses shallow watercourses in broadleaf woodland, in semi-natural forest and on open moorland and glacial lakes. It requires rocky cliffs or artificial sites, such as bridges, for breeding. During the non-breeding season it is sometimes found around slower-flowing lowland rivers and seashores. Egg-laying occurs from February to June in the British Isles, mid-March to May in north-west and central Europe, early May to early June in Scandinavia, mid-March to May in north-west Africa, April-July in northern Asia and mid-February to August in southern Asia. The nest is a large globular structure with a side entrance hole, made mainly of moss and lined with dry leaves. It is set in a in rock crevice or cliff ledge, in masonry or on ledge in wall or under bridge, sometimes behind waterfall and rarely in tree but almost invariably over running water. Clutches are generally three to six eggs. It feeds on freshwater insects and larvae and rarely on marine invertebrates in coastal areas. The species is resident but undergoes some post-breeding movement from high altitudes to more lowland rivers or sometimes to the coast (Ormerod et al. 2015).


The status and abundance of this species is strongly reflected by the water quality and habitat structure of rivers. Pollution that adversely affects aquatic prey also has an impact on dippers. Chemical pollution, from acidification (acid rain), industry, organic effluent, sheep dips and other xenobiotic substances, are potential threats. Recovery from pollution can take decades, even centuries. In Germany and Poland, declines have been directly attributed to industrial pollution. In southern Europe and elsewhere, hydro-electric and irrigation schemes are thought to be causing declines by reducing flow rates in watercourses. In addition habitat degradation, water abstraction and water impoundment are also threats in parts of its range (Ormerod et al. 2015).

Conservation actions

Conservation Actions Underway
Bern Convention Appendix II. There are currently no known conservation measures for this species within Europe.

Conservation Actions Proposed
Although the species is not currently threatened it would likely benefit from the protection of its favoured water courses and the prevention of water management in these areas.


Text account compilers
Khwaja, N., Symes, A., Ashpole, J, Ekstrom, J., Butchart, S.

Recommended citation
BirdLife International (2023) Species factsheet: Cinclus cinclus. Downloaded from on 29/11/2023.
Recommended citation for factsheets for more than one species: BirdLife International (2023) IUCN Red List for birds. Downloaded from on 29/11/2023.