Dipper Bird is a Starling-sized bird, very rotund and chunky, and closely tied to its aquatic habitat. Dipper Bird is cold brown on the upperparts, and a warmer rusty-brown on the head. The single most obvious feature is the large pure white bib, which extends from chin to mid-breast, often appearing as broad as it is deep due to the girth of the bird. The short tail is often held half-cocked. British birds are rusty-brown on the lower breast and belly, while nominate continental birds (the 'Black-bellied' Dipper) are brownish-black below. Typically encountered as it sits, bobbing and winking its white eyelids, on a mid-stream rock from which it dives underwater and swims, often surfacing with wings spread. Flies fast and direct like a fat brown bullet.
Dipper Bird is found along watercourses in upland and mountainous areas and also down to sea level, favouring shallow but fast-flowing streams and rivers where ample mid-stream perches such as rocks are available, especially where bordered by trees. Dipper Bird makes a domed mossy nest in a cavity in an undisturbed wall,bank or bridge, often overhanging the water and even behind waterfalls. It can also be found occasionally on slower-flowing rivers with weirs. Although primarily a resident species, continental birds regularly disperse in the winter months and occasionally reach southern and eastern England.
The call of Dipper Bird is a sharp note that is audible above the noise of roaring rivers, a curious and penetrating "djih!", also rendered as "stretts" or "zitt" and given often in flight. Both sexes sing, a rather understated medley of warbles and high hard notes, not unlike the sub-song of an immature Blackbird. The female's version is less melodious, sounding more disconnected and scratchy.