Len Blumin Bird Identification Quiz
There are some people who no doubt identified our mystery bird from a brief glance at the photo, without any clues (yes, these people are that good!).
The rest of us needed some help to realize that we were observing a rear view of the American Dipper (Cinclus mexicanus). Of course the bird is much more common in the western US and Canada than in Mexico, but birds are often named for the location of the first specimen, however illogical that proves for posterity (e.g. Connecticut Warblers, Philadelphia Vireo, etc.).
Dippers are found along fast-moving streams, finding food in the shallows or diving right into the water and then walking along the bottom for as long as 15 seconds. And the water is cold! Amazing creatures the dippers.
Sorry for the blurry shot, but there was a lot of grass and 15 other birders to contend with. Juvenile has some yellow in the bill, whereas adult's bill and feathers are all gray. Not visible are small white feathers on the eyelids, that flash when the bird blinks. Note the short tail and long legs. Some think the dippers are cousins of the thrushes, but relationships are unclear. Taxonomy below.
Order: Passeriformes - perching birds
Family: Cinclidae - the dippers. There is only one genus in this family.
Genus: Cinclus - the dipper. There are five dipper species in the world, all similar. In Europe the White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) has declined because of pollution in the waterways.
Species: Cinclus mexicanus - the American Dipper. Range of the species extends to Panama. Some populations migrate, but not great distances.