Great Snipe (Gallinago media)

Great Snipe

[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Scolopacidae | [latin] Gallinago media | [UK] Great Snipe | [FR] Becassine double | [DE] Doppelschnepfe | [ES] Agachadiza Real | [NL] Poelsnip


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

Medium sized, bulky snipe. Differs from similar species by bold white tips on wing coverts, bold dark barring on white underparts, and unbarred white corners to tail. Distal half of bill has slight droop.
Female very similar to male, but averages slightly larger. Non-breeding adult has duller and darker upperparts. Juvenile like breeding adult, but duskier and less well marked, brown bands on white tail corners.

Listen to the sound of Great Snipe

[audio: Snipe.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 42 cm wingspan max.: 50 cm
size min.: 26 cm size max.: 30 cm
incubation min.: 22 days incubation max.: 24 days
fledging min.: 21 days fledging max.: 24 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


Eurasia : Northwest


Usually in wide river valleys, floodplain meadows, tussock meadows, peatland, tundra with scattered bushes, and sometimes drier woodlands adjacent to marshes or bogs
After breeding, occurs in marshland, in short grass or sedges on lake edges or flooded fields, tracks in wooded areas.


Egg laying in May-July. Polygamous species. The only Gallinago with no aerial nuptial display in which distinctive sounds made by tail feathers. Instead, has complex lekking system, with males gathering after sunset on traditional display grounds. Performs elaborate display on top of small mound in which white outer tail feathers are distinctly advertised.
Female alone builds nest, incubates, and cares for young. Solitary breeder. Nest is shallow depression in ground, filled with some moss or grass, in thick vegetation, usually completely concealed. 4 eggs are laid, incubation 22-24 days. Chicks are cinnamon-buff or densely mottled ferruginous brown above with brown median zone bordered black with dense buffish white down tips. Young independent immediately after fledging.

Feeding habits

Mainly earthworms, but also gastropods and terrestrial insects, such as beetles and tipulids, also seeds, mainly of marsh plants.
Probes in soil for earthworms, but also pecks from surface and feeds in very shallow water. Feeds singly or in small numbers. Crepuscular and nocturnal feeder.


This species is listed as Near Threatened because it is thought to be experiencing a moderately rapid population decline, owing primarily to habitat loss and degradation, as well as hunting pressure. Any evidence that the decline is more rapid may qualify the species for uplisting to a higher threat category.
Great Snipe status Near Threatened


Migratory, to much larger extent than other west Palearctic snipe. Winters mainly in Afrotropical region (especially eastern half), with a few (probably irregularly) in north-west Europe exceptionally even in southern Scandinavia. Only vagrant to Indian subcontinent.
Movements away from breeding areas discernible by early August; autumn passage through eastern and central Europe mainly August-September, though continuing into November, and protracted period perhaps due to slower exodus of juveniles. Bulk of spring passage rather late, with a good many still in Zambia in April, and return movement through Kenya in 2nd-3rd week May; south European recoveries late March to early April, and vanguard reaches FSU in April. Main movement evidently rapid since breeding grounds reoccupied during May and early June.

Distribution map

Great Snipe distribution range map

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