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Observations on the nesting of White-capped Dipper (Cinclus leucocephalus) in Ecuador

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Though the nest of White-capped Dipper was briefly described in 1939, a detailed description of the nest and eggs has not been published. Here I provide observations on 11 nests throughout Ecuador. The nest is a mossy ball with the internal egg cup thickly lined with dead bamboo leaves, and is easily confused with nests of the Olive Finch (Lysurus castaneiceps). White -capped Dippers have a nesting season which coincides with the drier months in northeastern Ecuador.
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Greeney 49 Boletín SAO Vol. 18
Cinclus leucocephalus nesting in Ecuador (No. 2) Pag: 49-53
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Observations on the nesting of White-capped Dipper (Cinclus
leucocephalus) in Ecuador
Harold F. Greeney
Yanayacu Biological Station and Center for Creative Studies, Cosanga, Ecuador. c/o 721 Foch y Amazonas,
Quito, Ecuador.
E-mail: revmmoss@yahoo.com
Abstract
Though the nest of White-capped Dipper was briefly described in 1939, a detailed description of the nest and eggs has not
been published. Here I provide observations on 11 nests throughout Ecuador. The nest is a mossy ball with the internal
egg cup thickly lined with dead bamboo leaves, and is easily confused with nests of the Olive Finch (Lysurus
castaneiceps). White-capped Dippers have a nesting season which coincides with the drier months in northeastern
Ecuador.
Keywords: Cinclus leucocephalus, egg, nest, nest site, White-capped Dipper.
Resumen
Aunque la primera descripción parcial del nido del Cinclo Gorriblanco proviene del este de Ecuador de un nido
encontrado en 1939, hasta ahora no hay una descripción formal del nido y los huevos. Aquí presento observaciones sobre
11 nidos encontrado en Ecuador. El nido es una bola de musgos con una copa interna forrada de hojas secas de bambú, y
es fácilmente confundido con el nido del Pinzón Oliváceo (Lysurus castaneiceps). Aparentemente, el Cinclo Gorriblanco
anida principalmente durante los meses más secos en el este de Ecuador.
Palabras clave: Cinclo Gorriblanco, Cinclus leucocephalus, huevo, nido, sitio de anidación.
he White-capped Dipper (Cinclus leucocephalus)
(Fig. 1) belongs to a small family of semi-aquatic
birds encompassing only five species (Tyler & Omerod
1994, Brewer 2001). Two are Old World species, one is
from North America, and two inhabit South America
(Omerod & Tyler 2005). The White-capped Dipper is
distributed along the South American Andes (100-3900
m) from Venezuela and Colombia south to Bolivia (Hilty
& Brown 1989, Hilty 2003). It is found along larger,
fast-flowing streams, where it forages on boulders and
rocks in turbulent waters (Ridgely & Greenfield 2001).
The first nest description for this species, while lacking
in details, was from Baños in eastern Ecuador. This nest
was observed at a distance and described as a cup “open
from above” (Skutch 1972). Vuilleumier & Ewert (1978)
describe nests from Venezuela as being built “entirely of
moss,” though it is unclear how closely they inspected
the nests. Subsequently, Hilty (2003) described the nest
only as a “domed nest” containing a two-egg clutch.
Tyler & Omerod (1994) briefly describe another nest
from Ecuador, but do not provide a date or locality. To
date, no complete description of the nest and eggs has
been published, and here I rectify this with observations
of 11 nests from various localities in Ecuador.
I found nests opportunistically, and these records do
not properly represent breeding seasons. From one site,
however, Yanayacu Biological Station & Center for
Creative Studies (00°35’S, 77°53’W), I made enough
observations to provide a better idea of seasonality. I
found additional nests at Tandayapa, Pichincha Province,
in the west (00°00’N, 78°41’W), and Tapichalaca
Biological Reserve, Zamora-Chinchipe Province, in the
southeast (04°30’S, 79°10’W). In all, I discovered 11
nests on/at the stages, dates, and locations given in Table
1. I did not monitor nests closely, and thus cannot
present data on fledging success. I recorded nest
measurements to the nearest 0.5 cm. and egg
measurements to the nearest 0.1 mm.
T
Greeney 50 Boletín SAO Vol. 18
Cinclus leucocephalus nesting in Ecuador (No. 2) Pag: 49-53
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Figure 1. Adult White-capped Dipper (Cinclus leucocephalus) near Tandayapa, Pichincha Province, northwestern Ecuador, 1500
m. (Photo: Eliot Miller).
Nest sites and habitat. All nests were directly adjacent to
fast-flowing mountain streams in areas where the water
was bordered by tall, wet rock faces (or concrete bridge
supports). All were situated on these rock faces, wedged
into vertical crevices, on sheltered ledges, or in small
cavities (Fig. 2). Mean nest height (above the water) was
2.2 ± 0.9 m. (n = 8; range = 1.2-3.5 m.). Forest around
nest sites varied from primary, wet montane forest
(Yanayacu and Tapichalaca), to fairly scrubby, drier,
disturbed second growth (Tandayapa).
Figure 2. Nest site of White-capped Dipper (Cinclus leucocephalus) near Tapichalaca, Zamora-Chinchipe Province, southeastern
Ecuador, 1800 m. (Photo: H. F. Greeney).
Greeney 51 Boletín SAO Vol. 18
Cinclus leucocephalus nesting in Ecuador (No. 2) Pag: 49-53
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Nest architecture. All nests were bulky, globular
structures, built mostly of humid moss and rootlets, with
centrally located side entrances. The egg cup (e.g., not
the entire interior) was thickly lined with Chusquea
bamboo leaves and other strips of pale leaf material (Fig.
3 and 4). I measured three completed and accessible
nests, one each from Tandayapa, Tapichalaca, and
Yanayacu. Mean outer dimensions (cm. ± SD) were 21.7
± 2.9 tall by 23.7 ± 2.5 wide by 20.0 ± 1.0 front-to-back.
Mean dimensions of nest entrances were 6.2 ± 0.8 wide
by 4.8 ± 0.3 high, with a depth (measured from exterior
lip to internal lip) of 5.3 ± 0.8. Internal nest chambers
measured 11.5 ± 1.8 wide by 12.3 ± 1.5 tall. Inside this
chamber were thickly lined egg cups with mean inner
dimensions of 7.7 ± 1.5 in diameter by 4.7 ± 0.6 deep.
Nests were built by first stuffing moss into irregularities
in the substrate rock, creating a ring of moss which was
then added to until a completed ball was formed. Nest
walls varied in thickness depending on the shape and
size of the crevice or niche where the nest was lodged.
Once the external, mossy portion of the nest was
completed, overlapping layers of tightly compacted
bamboo leaves were added to create the cup.
Figure 3. Nest of White-capped Dipper (Cinclus leucocephalus) near Tapichalaca, Zamora-Chinchipe Province, southeastern
Ecuador, 2200 m. (Photo: H. F. Greeney).
Eggs. Clutch size was one egg at one nest at Yanayacu
and two eggs at one nest near Tandayapa. Two
additional nests, one at Yanayacu and one at
Tapichalaca, contained only a single nestling each. All
eggs were immaculate white with mean dimensions (n =
3) of 27.2 ± 1.5 by 18.0 ± 0.7 mm.
Seasonality. While it is premature to attempt to access
seasonality at a regional or country-level, most breeding
of White-capped Dipper occurs from August to
December in northeastern Ecuador. This roughly
corresponds with the drier months in this region
(Greeney et al. 2006). For a species which nests and
forages in close association with mountain streams,
breeding during the drier months would make sense in
order to avoid rainy season floods which might affect
foraging efficiency and/or destroy nests.
Conclusions. While Skutch’s (1972) description implied
an open cup nest, the nest, eggs, and nest sites of White-
capped Dipper are similar to those of its congeners
(Tyler & Omerod 1994, Omerod & Tyler 2005). One
interesting note is that the nest architecture and nest site
selection of White-capped Dipper are quite similar to
Greeney 52 Boletín SAO Vol. 18
Cinclus leucocephalus nesting in Ecuador (No. 2) Pag: 49-53
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those of the Olive Finch (Lysurus castaneiceps)
(Greeney & Gelis 2006, Schulenberg & Gill 1987), with
which this species is sometimes sympatric in Ecuador
(HFG pers. obs.). Both species build bulky, mossy nests,
with bamboo linings (Fig. 4) and both place nests in
crevices on rocks or banks (but see exceptions in
Greeney & Gelis 2006). While sample sizes are low for
both of these species, future investigations into
competition for nesting sites in areas of sympatry may
provide interesting insights into their nesting ecology.
For those working in the field on these two species, it is
important to note that the Olive Finch has a greater
diversity in nest sites and also has nest lining around the
entire inside of the chamber (Greeney & Gelis 2006; Fig.
4). It is also important to note the variation in coloration
of Olive Finch eggs, ranging from pure white
(Schulenberg & Gill 1987) like those of White-capped
Dipper, to fairly heavily maculated (Greeney & Gelis
2006). Along with similarities in nest architecture,
overlapping egg coloration between the two species
could easily lead to misidentification of nests without
confirmation by adult presence.
Figure 4. A comparison of the architectural design of White-capped Dipper (left) and Olive Finch (right). Note that the inner
lining (grey) of dry leaves only covers the bottom portion of the chamber in the dipper nest.
Table 1. Nesting dates, locations, and stages of nests of White-capped Dipper (Cinclus leucocephalus) in Ecuador.
Nests of White-capped Dippers (Cinclus leucocephalus) in Ecuador
Date Location Stage
15 September 2001 Yanayacu Incubation
6 October 2001 Yanayacu Construction
8 December 2001 Yanayacu Active nest/unknown stage
27 September 2002 Yanayacu Construction
2 October 2002 Yanayacu Nestling
9 October 2004 Tapichalaca Active nest/unknown stage
26 November 2004 Tapichalaca Nestling
25 September 2005 Yanayacu Construction
25 September 2005 Yanayacu Construction
5 August 2006 Tandayapa Construction
5 August 2006 Tandayapa Incubation
Greeney 53 Boletín SAO Vol. 18
Cinclus leucocephalus nesting in Ecuador (No. 2) Pag: 49-53
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Acknowledgments
I thank Carmen Bustamante (San Isidro), Jocotoco
Foundation (Tapichalaca), Tony Nunnery (Pacha
Quinde), Richard Parsons (Bellavista), and Ian Campbell
(Tandayapa Lodge) for generously allowing us access to
their private reserves. For help with field work I thank
Erin Hannelly, Eliot Miller, Krystof Zyskowski, Ryan
Lynch, and Rudy Gelis. I thank Kimberly Sheldon for
valuable comments on early drafts. For continued
support of my studies in Ecuador I thank the PBNHS,
Population Biology Foundation, Matt Kaplan, John V.
and the late Ruth Ann Moore. This is publication number
173 of the Yanayacu Natural History Research Group.
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... Riparian zones are among the most dynamic terrestrial habitats (Naiman & Decamps 1997). Thus, the nesting sites of spotted barbtails, always above streams (Greeney 2008a), are subject to rapidly rising water levels after wet season rainstorms and one would predict them to breed during drier periods as do other riparian-nesting species in the area (Dobbs & Greeney 2006, Greeney 2007, 2008cGreeney et al. 2004Greeney et al. , 2006. These dry-season breeders, however, are also generally specialized feeders, taking predominantly aerial prey (e.g. ...
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