Dippers in the Altai

Mongolia Field Note #15  ‣  Author: Andrew Laurie


The White-throated Dipper, or Гялаан омруут харзлай, (Cinclus cinclus) is distributed from Europe to China, including upland parts of Mongolia.   

Andrew Laurie studied Dippers in the UK as a schoolboy.  Much later, when working in Mongolia on a conservation project, he became interested in how their lives differed in the mountains of the Altai and started to observe and photograph them.  

He has now made four films about Dippers in the Altai: I. Nest building (2017) II. Incubation (2018) III. Feeding the nestlings (2019) and  IV. Emergence of the chicks (2022). There are Mongolian subtitled versions of each film.  

Unlike in Europe, it turns out that female dippers in Mongolia are fed almost entirely their mates while they incubate the eggs. And in 2022 a striking and so far unexplained behaviour pattern was observed in one pair. In 2023 Andrew and his team made a return visit to further document this intriguing behaviour, and that quest will be the subject of a fifth film.   

The series puts Dipper ecology in the context of wildlife conservation in Mongolia, emphasizing the role of the Dipper as an indicator of clean, unpolluted streams and rivers; and also extolling the joys of learning about wild animals by simply sitting and watching them.

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