Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)


[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Scolopacidae | [latin] Gallinago gallinago | [UK] Snipe | [FR] Becassine de marais | [DE] Bekassine | [ES] Agachadiza Comun | [NL] Watersnip


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range

Physical charateristics

Small to medium sized snipe, with rather long bill and white belly. Plumage variable, and melanistic morph occurs.
Flight faster and more erratic than other snipes of similar size. Differs from very similar G. stenura, G. hardwickii and G. megala by prominent white trailing edge to wing, and supercilium narrower than eyestripe at base of bill.
Sexes alike. No seasonal variation. Juvenile very similar to adult, but wing coverts more neatly fringed pale buff.
Race faeroeensis darker and more rufous above, with narrower, less contrasting, back stripes. G. delicata darker than faeroeensis.
Generally less rufous than nominate with heavier barring on flanks, and usually has darker underwing.

Listen to the sound of Snipe


Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 39 cm wingspan max.: 44 cm
size min.: 23 cm size max.: 27 cm
incubation min.: 18 days incubation max.: 20 days
fledging min.: 19 days fledging max.: 20 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 3  
      eggs max.: 5  


Eurasia : widespread


Open fresh or brackish marshland with rich or tussocky vegetation, grassy or marshy edges of lakes and rivers, wet hay fields, swampy meadows and marshy tundra, in forest tundra and extreme northern taiga zones.
In general, found in areas providing combination of grassy cover and moist soils, rich in organic matter. Outside breeding season, generally occupies similar habitats, with more use of man made habitats’ sewage farms and rice fields.


Egg laying from April to June, pair bond monogamous, but both sexes show high degree of promiscuity. very territorial. Nest usually on dry spot, covered by grasses, rushes, sedges or sphagnum. 4 eggs, incubation 17-20 days, by female alone. Chicks are mahogany red, moe hazel brown or tawny on sides of head and underparts, with black and white bands on head. Both parents care for young, but male entices oldest 1 or 2 from nest to tend.

Feeding habits

Larval and adult insects, earthworms, small crustaceans, small gastropods and spiders. Plant fibres and seeds consumed in smaller quantities.
Feeds by vertical, rhythmic probing in substrate, often without removing bill from soil. Feeds typically in small groups, essentially crepuscular.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). Despite the fact that the population trend appears to be decreasing, the decline is not believed to be sufficiently rapid to approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Snipe status Least Concern


Largely migratory, but partially migratory to resident in western maritime countries of Europe. Small numbers winter in Iceland, Faeroes, western Norway, Denmark, and western Germany (more in mild seasons), but main Old World winter range extends from British Isles and Low Countries to Iberia and Maghreb, thence eastwards through Mediterranean basin, Middle East, and southern Asia. Also winters in large numbers in Africa south of Sahara; oasis and Sahel observations indicate broad-front crossings of Sahara. Birds of the migratory North American race, G. g. delicata, have straggled to Britain in autumn.
Autumn passage of Fenno-Scandian populations starts July; peak numbers in Denmark and Netherlands September-October, and all in wintering areas in November. Spring migration starts March (perhaps February in Iberia), and breeding grounds reoccupied April-May.

Distribution map

Snipe distribution range map

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