|Pin-tailed Snipe (Gallinago stenura)|
A snipe is any of about 25 wading bird species in three genera in the family Scolopacidae. They are characterized by a very long, slender bill and crypsis plumage. The Gallinago snipes have a nearly worldwide distribution, the Lymnocryptes jack snipe is restricted to Asia and Europe and the Coenocorypha snipes are found only in the Outlying Islands of New Zealand. The three species of painted snipe are not closely related to the typical snipes, and are placed in their own family, the Rostratulidae.
Snipes search for invertebrates in the mud with a "sewing-machine" action of their long bills. The sensitivity of the bill, though to some extent noticeable in many sandpipers, is in snipes carried to an extreme by a number of filaments, belonging to the fifth pair of nerves, which run almost to the tip and open immediately under the soft cuticle in a series of cells. They give this portion of the surface of the premaxillaries, when exposed, a honeycomb-like appearance. Thus the bill becomes a most delicate organ of sensation, and by its means the bird, while probing for food, is at once able to distinguish the nature of the objects it encounters, though these are wholly out of sight.
Camouflage may enable snipe to remain undetected by hunters in marshland. If the snipe flies, hunters have difficulty estimating a correct aiming lead for the bird's erratic flight pattern. The difficulties involved in hunting snipe gave rise to the term “sniper”, referring to a skilled anti-personnel military sharpshooter.
"Going on a snipe hunt" is a phrase suggesting a fool's errand, or an impossible task. It is often used as a practical joke upon campers, and those unfamiliar with hunting, by those more experienced.
|Look up sniper in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Snipe.|