Greater Painted Snipe

The Greater Painted Snipe (Rostratula benghalensis) is a species of wading bird found in the marshes of Africa, India and southeast Asia (Sulawesi). Its preferred habitat are fringes of reed beds along shorelines of marshes, swamps, ponds and streams. The Greater Painted Snipe is not related to true snipes, and differs in habits, flight and appearance.

This is a medium-sized bird with a long reddish-brown bill that is slightly downward curved at the tip. It has a unique white or pink eye patch. The wings are rounded and beige-spotted. The tail is short. The white of the breast extends up around the top of the folded wing. There is strong sexual dimorphism. The female is larger and more brightly colored than the male. The sides of the head, neck and throat in the female are rich chestnut brown, with a distinct black band across the breast. The male is much paler and grayer. The young resemble the male but lack the broken dark band across the breast. This is not a vocal species, however the male will utter a shrill trill at times, and the female will make a throaty ook sound and may make hissing noises during breeding displays.

The nest is a shallow scrape in soft ground, lined with plant material and placed among grass and reeds near the water’s edge. Breeding lasts from April to July. Females court the males, and may have more than one mate at a time. The male incubates and raises the young. The male is also known to carry the chicks under his wing to safety. The Painted Snipe is seen solitarily or in pairs (up to 12 in a group). It is a shy bird and will stay close to vegetation so that it can retreat to cover easily if disturbed. When flushed, it flies like a rail with legs dangling. It bobs the hindquarters on landing and sometimes while walking. It will probe for insects, crustaceans and mollusks in the mud. Seeds are often taken as well.

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