Great snipe

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Great snipe
Gallinago media - Museo Civico di Storia Naturale Giacomo Doria - Genoa, Italy - DSC03103.JPG
Kilnsea, Yorkshire
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Charadriiformes
Suborder: Scolopaci
Family: Scolopacidae
Genus: Gallinago
Species: G. media
Binomial name
Gallinago media
(Latham, 1787)
Gallinago media Map.png
Range of G. media      Breeding range     Non-breeding range

Capella media (Latham, 1787)
Gallinago major
Scolopax media Latham, 1787

Egg of Gallinago media - (Muséum de Toulouse)
Gallinago media.jpg

The great snipe (Gallinago media) is a small stocky wader in the genus Gallinago. This bird's breeding habitat is marshes and wet meadows with short vegetation in north-eastern Europe, including north-western Russia. Great snipes are migratory, wintering in Africa. The European breeding population is in steep decline.

The birds are noted for their fast, non-stop flying capabilities over huge distances.[2] They can fly up to 97 kilometres per hour, with researchers finding little evidence of wind assistance. Some have been recorded to fly non-stop for 84 hours over 6,760 kilometres (4,200 mi). Their wings are not especially aerodynamic, lacking pointed tips, and they typically do not stop to feed despite having opportunities. The birds instead rely on stores of fat.[2]

The voice is described as a faint yeah. Mating display calls of groups can be heard at long distances (more than 300 m) and include a rising and falling series of chirping calls and accelerating clicking noises.

At dusk during the breeding season, the males display at a lek (arena), standing erect with chest puffed and tail fanned out. They may jump into the air, and will produce a variety of rattles, clicks, buzzes and whistles while displaying. Three to four eggs are laid in a well-hidden nest on the ground.

These birds forage in soft mud, probing or picking up food by sight. They mainly eat insects and earthworms, and occasional plant material. They are difficult to see, being well camouflaged in their habitat. When flushed from cover, they fly straight for a considerable distance before dropping back into vegetation.

At 26–30 cm in length and a 42–50 cm wingspan, adults are only slightly larger, but much bulkier, than the common snipe and have a shorter bill. The body is mottled brown on top and barred underneath. They have a dark stripe through the eye. The wings are broad, and a pale wingbar is visible in flight.

The great snipe is one of the species to which the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) applies.[3]


Fossils of the great snipe have been uncovered in North Carolina, dating back to about 4.465 Ma ±0.865M. This suggests that the bird must have at some point relocated across the Atlantic Ocean.[4]


In 2012 there were estimated to be between 15,000 and 40,000 great snipe in Scandinavia and between 450,000 and 1,000,000 in western Siberia and northeastern Europe. The species is experiencing a population decline, owing primarily to habitat loss, as well as to hunting in eastern Europe and in its African wintering range. The species is classified by the International Union for Conservation of Nature as "Near Threatened".[1]


  1. ^ a b BirdLife International (2012). "Gallinago media". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Klaassen, Raymond H.G.; Alerstam, Thomas; Carlsson, Peter; Fox, James W.; Lindström, Åke (25 May 2011). "Great flights by great snipes: long and fast non-stop migration over benign habitats". Biology Letters. doi:10.1098/rsbl.2011.0343. 
  3. ^ "Agreement Text and Annexes" (PDF). Agreement on the Conservation of African - Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA). May 2012. Retrieved 26 November 2014. 
  4. ^ "The Paleobiology Database". 3 Jan 2009. Retrieved 10 Jul 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Løfaldli, L.; Kålås, J.A.; Fiske, P. (1992). "Habitat selection and diet of Great Snipe Gallinago media during breeding". Ibis 134 (1): 35–43. doi:10.1111/j.1474-919X.1992.tb07227.x. 

External links[edit]