African AnimalsAfrican birding

Interesting Facts About The Great Snipe

The Great Snipe, also known as the Gallinago media, is a small, stocky bird species categorized under the Gallinago genus. The genus Gallinago is a group of wader family that has 17 species. The Great Snipe’s closest relatives include the Solitary Snipe, African Snipe, Madagascar Snipe, Giant Snipe, Common Snipe, South American Snipe, and Imperial Snipe.

English naturalist John Latham first described this bird species in 1787, earning it the binomial name Scolopax media. The name of its current genus “Gallinago” is the New Latin for words “snipe” and “woodcock.” On the other hand, the species’ specific name “media” is the Latin translation of “intermediate,” referring to the species’ intermediate size between the common snipe and woodcock.

Back in 2012, there were approximately 15,000 to 40,000 Great Snipes in Scandinavia and between 450,000 and 1,000,000 in northeastern Europe and western Siberia. Since then, the species is experiencing a population decline due to habitat loss and hunting in Europe and Africa. Because of this, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List classified this species as Near Threatened.

Its seven levels of scientific classification are as follows:

Kingdom: Animalia

Phylum: Chordata

Class: Aves

Order: Charadriiformes

Family: Scolopacidae

Genus: Gallinago

Species: G. media

The physical characteristics of a Great Snipe

The biometrics of an adult Great Snipe are as follows:

  • Length: 27-29 cm
  • Weight: 140-260 g
  • Wingspan: 47-50 cm

The Great Snipe has pale brown vermiculations and narrow lines and darker brown upperparts with thin buff. The wing coverts of its upper wing have bold white tips. Its flight feathers are dark brown. The uppertail has white outer rectrices except for the base tail.

The Great Snipe’s underparts, upper breast, and neck are pale brown with heavy dark brown spots and streaks that form chevrons on the lower breast. White flanks and belly are barred blackish, but the center belly is unbarred. Underwing-coverts and auxiliaries are barred white and brown.

Male and female Great Snipes have similar plumage, but the latter is slightly larger. The juvenile resembles an adult Great Snipe, but the former has upperparts that show narrower streaks, less conspicuous white tips of wing-coverts, and white outer rectrices are sheer barred brown.

The distribution and habitat of Great Snipes

The Great Snipes inhibit different continents and regions worldwide, including northeastern Europe and northwestern Russia. These birds migrate to Africa during the winter season.

These birds breed in marshes with sedges, grassy bogs, damp meadows that are usually bordered by forest or bushlands. It also takes refuge in drier woodlands near bogs and marshes. On passage, they can be sighted in wet fields with short grass, marshland edges, swaps with sedges, meadows, rice fields, and flooded areas.

The behavior of a Great Snipe

The Great Snipe is adored for its fast-flying, non-stop ability, which propels them to conquer huge distances. They can fly up to 60 mph. Some birds have been observed to fly non-stop for 84 hours over 6,760 km. The Great Snipe’s wings are not specifically aerodynamic as the wings lack pointed tips. Nevertheless, the Great Snipe would not stop flying to feed unless a great opportunity presents itself.

Great Snipes are migratory birds that leave their breeding grounds in August. They fly over to sub-Saharan Africa after the rainy season.

During the breeding season, male Great Snipes gather and perform a courtship display—they jump and fight with an upright stance and pouting breasts. They collectively perform bill-fencing while their tails are fanned up to display their white outer rectrices. Noisy songs accompany these displays.

The females will visit the gatherings to mate and will select a male based on their features. They will copulate at the center of the lek. The female Great Snipe will lay 3-5 eggs and will incubate them for 22-24 days. The chicks will have cryptic plumage when born. As soon as they learned to feed themselves, they will leave the nest immediately. They fledge for 21 to 28 days after hatching.

The diet of a Great Snipe

This bird species feeds on invertebrates such as earthworms, insect larvae, seeds from aquatic plants, gastropods, and plant materials. The Great Snipe feeds alone or in small groups, being more active during the dusk and at night. It probes the water or soil in search of food using its long bill.

Great Snipe
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