Wilsons Snipe (Gallinago delicata)

Wilsons Snipe

[order] CHARADRIIFORMES | [family] Scolopacidae | [latin] Gallinago delicata | [UK] Wilsons Snipe | [FR] Courlis cendre | [DE] | [ES] Agachona comun | [NL] Amerikaanse Watersnip


Monotypic species

Physical charateristics

Wilson’s Snipe is a rather chunky shorebird, with a short neck and short legs. Its straight bill is very long. It is colored cryptically in mottled brown and black, with prominent light buffy longitudinal stripes on both its head and back. Its flanks are heavily barred, and its tail, barely visible when the bird is on the ground, is a rusty orange. Males, females, and juveniles have virtually the same appearance, and there is no seasonal variation in plumage.

Listen to the sound of Wilsons Snipe

[audio:http://www.aviflevoland.nl/sounddb/W/Wilsons Snipe.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 39 cm wingspan max.: 45 cm
size min.: 23 cm size max.: 28 cm
incubation min.: 18 days incubation max.: 20 days
fledging min.: 18 days fledging max.: 20 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 4  


North America, Latin America : widespread to Northwest South America


Wilson’s Snipe breeds in lowland, freshwater marshes and wet meadows with emergent vegetation, especially sedge meadows. During migration and winter, snipes can also be found in salt marshes, estuaries, and other mucky areas.


Males arrive on the breeding grounds 10 to 14 days before females. They establish territories and, once they arrive, attract females with their dramatic flight displays. Females build their nests on grass or sedge hummocks. The nest is a shallow depression lined with moss, leaves, and grass, sometimes with plants from above woven in a canopy. The female lays 4 eggs and incubates them by herself for 18 to 20 days. The young leave the nest shortly after hatching, and both parents tend the brood, often splitting the group and each taking one or two young. The parents feed the young at first, although the young start to probe for their own food at about six days. By ten days of age, they find most of their own food. The parents continue to supplement their diet until they become independent (18 to 20 days).

Feeding habits

Wilson’s Snipes eat insects, earthworms, and other creatures that burrow in wet soil. They also eat leaves and seeds.


This species has a large range, with an estimated global Extent of Occurrence of 10,000,000 km2. It has a large global population estimated to be 490,000-660,000 individuals1. The European population (220,000-360,000 pairs, occupying 50-74% of the global breeding range) has declined during 1990-2000 (including key populations in the United Kingdom, European Russia and Finland)2, but there is no evidence of declines in Asia, where populations appear to be stable3,4,5. The species is therefore not believed to approach the thresholds for the population decline criterion of the IUCN Red List (i.e. declining more than 30% in ten years or three generations). For these reasons, the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
The Wilson’s Snipe was recently recognized as a different species from the Common Snipe of Eurasia. The two snipes look extremely similar, but differ in the shape, patterning, and usually the number of the tail feathers. The Wilson’s Snipe typically has 16 tail feathers, whereas the Common Snipe has 14. These numbers vary, however, and a Common Snipe may have from 12 to 18 tail feathers.
Wilsons Snipe status Least Concern


Wilson’s Snipes are found throughout the US and are partially migratory. Some move north into Canada, Alaska, and the northern US tier and some winter in the central and southern US, Mexico, and Central America.

Distribution map

Wilsons Snipe distribution range map

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