In 2014, the dams on the Elwha River in Washington State were removed. As the river ran free again, salmon from the Pacific were able to spawn upstream for the first time in 100 years, dramatically improving conditions for American Dippers. Recent research has demonstrated that birds with access to salmon have higher survival rates. And they are 20 times more likely to attempt to raise two broods in a season, the most important contributor to population growth.
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Dippers of the Elwha
Written by Todd Peterson
This is BirdNote.
In 2014, on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State, the dams on the Elwha River were removed. It was the largest removal of its kind in history. As the river ran free again, salmon from the Pacific were able to spawn upstream for the first time in 100 years – having a dramatic impact on American Dippers - lively little river side birds.
[Song of American Dipper]
Biologists with the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and Ohio State University drew small samples of blood from dippers that they then released unharmed. Analysis of blood and feathers show that birds with access to salmon have higher survival rates and the females have better body condition than those with no access to the fish. These dippers are also much more likely to stay on their home territories, rather than expend energy to forage widely. And they are 20 times more likely to attempt raising two broods in a season, the most important contributor to population growth.
So nutrients from spawned-out salmon and salmon eggs are giving the river’s ecosystem new vitality.
For BirdNote I’m Mary McCann.
Support for BirdNote comes from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, presenting its new “Bird Photography” online course, featuring Melissa Groo. Learn more at academy.allaboutbirds.org.
[Song of American Dipper]
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. American Dipper  recorded by R S Little
River ambience recorded by Chris Peterson. ‘Stream, Moderate’ Track 18 Nature SFX recorded by Gordon Hempton at http://www.quietplanet.com
BirdNote’s theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Dominic Black
© 2016 Tune In to Nature.org May 2018/2020 Narrator: Mary McCann