Ouzel, a genus of birds of the thrush family, hydrobata (Vieill.) or cinclus (Bechst.). The bill is without bristles at the base, moderate, slender, slightly bent upward, with culmen nearly straight, and curved and notched tip; the frontal plumes come as far as the opening of the nostrils; wings moderate and rounded, the first quill spurious and the second rather shorter than the third and fourth, which are longest; tail very short and nearly even; tarsi as long as middle toe, covered in front with an entire scale; feet robust, with toes moderate, the outer the longest, and united at base; claws long, curved; and sharp. About half a dozen species are described in America, Europe, and Asia. The American water ouzel or dipper (II. Jfexicana, Baird; C. Americanus, Swains.) is about 7$ in. long, with an extent of wings of 10½; the color above is dark plumbeous, paler beneath; head and neck with a sooty brown tinge; a concealed white spot above the front of the eye, and sometimes below it; in young birds the feathers beneath, the wing coverts, and lesser quills are edged with grayish white; it inhabits the vicinity of clear rapid streams in the Rocky mountains from British America to Mexico. The European ouzel or dipper (H. cinclus, Vieill.; C. aquaticus, Bechst.) is of about the same size, with the head and hind neck dark brown, the upper parts dark gray with broad black edgings, throat and fore neck white, and breast brownish red; the female with less deep tints; the young grayish above, with black edgings.
The form of the ouzels is compact, and the motions and attitudes are like those of the wrens. Their habits are very peculiar; they are found singly or in pairs in mountainous districts on the borders of streams; they seek their food under water, not plunging superficially like the kingfisher or the fish hawk, nor going under from the surface like the ducks, but darting boldly into the water from the wing, diving to the bottom, and swimming and running about there with great rapidity, in search of aquatic insects, larvae, and mollusks, on which they feed. The ouzel is said also to devour the spawn and fry of fishes, and on this account, though probably without reason, is very generally persecuted by anglers and gamekeepers; its progression under water is by the action of the wings, as in many web-footed birds; it remains submerged for a minute or two, swimming well, rising buoyantly to the surface, and able to dive again without rising on the wing. The flight is direct and rapid; it is in the habit of perching on stones in the middle of streams, constantly moving the tail up and down; it is a very poor walker; when wounded it plunges under water and escapes to the shore, struggling to' the last when taken.
The note is a gentle warble, short and lively, but not resembling the full song of the proper thrushes. It begins to make a nest about the middle of spring, of moss and leaves, on the bank of a stream, among the roots of a tree overhanging the water, in the crevice of a rock, or in a hole in a bridge, dam, or wall; it is of large size, arched over, and compactly built; the eggs are five or six, pure white, somewhat smaller than those of the song thrush. This genus is considered intermediate between the ant thrushes and thrushes proper; its. short and dense plumage, short wings and tail, and bill, are admirably adapted for making its way under water, and seizing and detaching its food from submerged stones. According to Macgillivray, the genus forms a connecting link between the slender-billed land birds and the diving water birds, as the kingfisher seems to unite the former with the plunging birds of the same order. - The name of ring ouzel is given to the European thrush (turdus torquatus, Linn.) from its having a broad white crescent across the black of the breast; and the blackbird (T. merula, Linn.) is often also called ouzel in Great Britain.
European Ouzel (Hydrobata eiuclus).