Common Snipe

The Common Snipe (Gallinago gallinago) is a small, stocky shorebird. Adults are 23-28 cm in length with a 39-45 cm wingspan. They have short greenish-grey legs and a very long straight dark bill. The body is mottled brown on top and pale underneath. They have a dark stripe through the eye, with light stripes above and below it. The wings are pointed.

They breed in marshes, bogs, tundra and wet meadows in Canada, the northern United States, Iceland, northern Europe and Russia. They nest in a well-hidden location on the ground.

The North American population migrates to the southern United States and to northern South America. It is a year-round resident on the Pacific coast of the United States.

European birds winter in southern Europe and Africa, and Asian migrants move to tropical southern Asia.

These birds forage in soft mud, probing or picking up food by sight. They mainly eat insects and earthworms, but have been known add plant material to their diet on occasion.

The male performs “winnowing” display during courtship, flying high in circles and then taking shallow dives to produce a distinctive sound. The North American population was reduced by hunting near the end of the 19th century and loss of habitat. However, this bird remains fairly common.

The New World form, G. g. delicata, is increasingly considered a separate species, Wilson’s Snipe, G. delicata. It has a narrower white edge to the wings, and eight pairs of tail feathers instead on seven.

The two other races are G. g. faeroeensis in Iceland, the Faroes, Shetland and Orkney, and G. g. gallinago in the rest of the Old World.